On Feb. 8, Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration for the village of Tuluksak. The declaration comes nearly a month after a fire destroyed the village’s only source of drinking water. In the interim, residents of Tuluksak have been mostly drinking bottled water donated by private citizens and businesses.
Following a weekend of social media pressure, including from the band Black Eyed Peas, Dunleavy issued the declaration, freeing up to $1 million in state relief funds.
Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs, broke the news, saying, “The governor has verbally issued a disaster declaration for Tuluksak. The declaration will open up public assistance.”
Paul Nelson, the director of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said that the funds will go toward reimbursing agencies who have already stepped in to help, like the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, which has been fronting payments for initial infrastructure construction.
Nelson said that it took the state this long to respond because they needed extra time to analyze the situation. He also said that immediate response is reserved for life-threatening emergencies, explaining, “to declare disaster immediately when an event happens is usually only reserved for when the community is utterly overwhelmed and there is an imminent or immediate life threat.”