UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS

Port Heiden: an Alaska community adapting to climate change

Like dozens of other coastal villages in Alaska, Port Heiden is grappling with how to adapt to climate change effects, including rising ocean levels, disappearing sea ice, extreme erosion and flooding. With its volcanic soil and exposed location on the peninsula, Port Heiden is naturally vulnerable to powerful storms and erosion. But climate change is exacerbating the problem. Between April 2017 and April 2018, the community lost between 35 and 65 feet of shoreline at its old village site, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers.

The village is ahead of the game though. Unlike other Alaska villages facing the prospect of forced relocation, or “climigration” as some call it, Port Heiden has already made the move.

Read more in this Bristol Bay Times story.  View photos of Port Heiden below.

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The eroded road between Goldfish Lake and Bristol Bay is expected to wash away during the next big storm. It connects Port Heiden to the old village of Meshik which was forced to relocate in the 1980s due to shoreline erosion. A bulldozer is in the back on the far left, ready to take down the last remaining building in Meshik.

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Remnants of former structures arise from the beach in Port Heiden.

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Close-up of the last remaining structure left in Meshik, the old village site in Port Heiden.

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A rusty pipe protrudes from the eroded bluff holding back Goldfish Lake. The road is expected to wash away in the next big storm, unleashing the lake into the ocean.

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Abandoned fishing boats in Port Heiden.

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Alaska Sea Grant’s coastal community resilience specialist Davin Holen gives a presentation to residents of Port Heiden on adaptation planning.

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From left to right: UAF graduate student Richard Buzard, Bristol Bay Native Association Environmental Program Manager Sue Flensburg, and Erica Mitchell of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Scott Anderson, Port Heiden’s tribal environmental director, is sitting with his back to the camera wearing a red cap.

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