Norton Bay Climate Risk Assessment Project
Beginning in 2010, the Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (NBITWC) and the Native Villages of Elim, Koyuk, Unalakleet and Shaktoolik initiated a Norton Sound adaptation planning process using the “Steps to Resilience” under the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit including: 1) Explore Hazards; 2) Assess Vulnerability and Risks; 3) Investigate Options; 4) Prioritize and Plan; and 5) Take Action.
In 2011, as part of Step 1: “Explore Hazards”, the Native Village of Elim (NVE) and the NBITWC worked with partners to monitor environmental conditions and initiated a planning effort to identify risk from climate change and potential mining development activities within the Norton Bay Watershed (Watershed). The results were an Assessment of Mining Impacts on Subsistence Ecosystems of the Tubutulik River Watershed; the Quality Assurance Project Plan for the NVE Tubutulik River Subsistence Protection Project; and the NVE Instream Flow Water Reservation Application (Planning Documents).
These documents were developed using both Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and contemporary science, and included the local community in decision making by holding community gatherings and participating in public gatherings. The planning effort also included surveys designed to gather TEK, and documentation of observations and concerns, as well as success stories. Data on water flow, quality and temperature were also applied to the Planning Documents to address the potential impacts of mining activity and climate change on subsistence resources and human health and welfare within the Tubutulik River Watershed.
As part of Step 2: “Assess Vulnerability and Risks”, the NBITWC and partners engaged the Climate Solutions University (CSU) Adaptation Plan Development Program created by the Model Forest Policy Program (MFPP) to develop the Norton Bay Climate Change Adaption Plan (NBCCAP). This process engaged an array of stakeholders and expertise in building partnerships, gathering extensive information, thinking critically, and planning focused on a community-based team effort. The result was a regional action plan that the Norton Bay community and supporters are working to implement.
As part of Step 3: “Investigate Options”, NBITWC and NVE, with grant funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Resilience Program, presented a climate adaptation planning curriculum from July 2016 through May 2017. The curriculum informed and guided Alaskan Native community leaders and staff to develop Localized Climate Change Adaptation Plans (LCCAPs) by assessing local climate risks; developing strategies to address those risks; and building the information, funding, and resource capacity to take action for climate adaptation and community resilience. Participants in the curriculum gained a clear understanding of the impacts from climate change in Alaska, locally specific climate risks, and adaptation options to address risks.
To engage in Step 4: “Prioritize and Plan”, NBITWC will continue our efforts to assist the Villages with climate resiliency planning. To this end, the Norton Sound Local Climate Change Adaption Planning Project will support the creation of climate-resilient action plans for Alaska Native Villages in the Norton Sound. Using a step by step process, participants will be provided with the information and tools needed to write a local adaptation plan and be ready to move into Step 5: “Take Action” in a variety of ways that make sense for their community.
In addition, NBITWC and our village partners have obtained funding to assist the Villages in applying for Hazard Mitigation Planning and to apply existing water quality and quantity baseline data; climate change scenarios, maps, background information and research; watershed assessments; and planning documents to take specific actions that will protect rivers and streams that support fish and wildlife habitat and subsistence uses, from climate change and development of related temperature increases and low flows using habitat improvement measures.
Finally, the NBITWC is engaging in a dialogue with other indigenous communities and nations, including the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Arctic Circle, the Group on Earth Observations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the European Polar Board (EPB) and the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON), NBITWC to help the Villages respond and adapt to climate change.