Napakiak Erosion Worsens After Spring Storms

Storms took out the temporary boat landing near the school.
Credit Krysti Shallenberger / KYUK

Napakiak doesn’t have a boat landing anymore. Storms over the past week ate huge chunks from the Kuskokwim riverbank close to the city school and fuel tanks. That includes the banks where people land their boats. The village has been dealing with river erosion for decades, but they’ve seen it accelerate over the past few years because of climate change.

Walter Nelson, a city council member, helps monitor the erosion. He stands near what used to be the temporary boat landing.

"People have lost their boats, four-wheelers. Totally gone,” he said.

The fuel tanks are closest to the riverbank, about 140 feet away. The school is less than 200 feet from the river. Small trees and bushes line parts of the riverbank in front of the school. The roots hold the mud in place, but Nelson says that once the trees go, the erosion will accelerate even more. He estimates that the storm washed about 10 feet from the riverbank.

Napakiak needs to build a new school because the current building is too big and old to move. That will cost the Lower Kuskokwim School District millions of dollars. When that will happen remains to be seen. LKSD first has to build another school for a different community which is relocating the entire village because of erosion: Newtok.