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Contact:  Heather Handyside

July 8,  2014

(907) 350-4846


Begich Urges FEMA to Respond to Threat of Erosion in AK

Senator Calls Erosion on Rivers and Coasts a “Slow Disaster”

U.S. Senator Mark Begich today pressed Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials to consider Alaska’s riverbank and coastal erosion a disaster under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act.)   The Stafford Act defines the triggers that authorize the federal government to provide physical and financial assistance after a disaster has been declared.

“Just this spring I took FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to see the dangerous results of flooding and erosion along the Matanuska River.  At that time, a family had just recently lost their home because the riverbank was being washed away,” said Begich.  “Today, flooding forced residents to evacuate the same area and even more homes are at risk.  Alaskans know that our state is ground zero for climate change and that flooding and erosion will become more severe in coming decades. That’s why it is important for FEMA to recognize erosion as a natural disaster now so we can make smart investments to minimize the threat.”

Begich discussed his concerns during his meeting with Milo Booth, an Alaska Native tribal member of the Metlakatla Indian Community (MIC), who was recently appointed as FEMA’s national tribal affairs advisory.  Mr. Booth leads the new Tribal Affairs Branch in Intergovernmental Affairs and will serve as a key advisor on tribal affairs to senior FEMA leadership.  This position was created after Begich, who serves on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Indian Affairs Committees, admonished FEMA’s lack of sustained communication and outreach with tribes across the country.  Begich stressed the opportunity Booth has been given to make sure FEMA views tribes are a true partner before, during, and after disaster strikes.

“We know that erosion will continue to be a threat to Alaska’s Interior and coastal communities.  FEMA must recognize this ongoing threat and make the policy changes necessary to prevent event more damage and loss of property,” said Begich.  “Erosion is a slow disaster that puts entire communities at risk.  FEMA must recognize this threat and put the policies in place in order to save lives and property.”