Alaska Region

Advertisement for the December 2014 Ocean Acidification Workshop

Advertisement for the December 2014 Ocean Acidification Workshop

John Madden, Alaska’s former state emergency manager, is passionate about changing national coastal erosion and disaster authorities because they fail to help the country respond to inevitable disasters- those events we see coming for years, but we have no funding mechanism to address until devastation is imminent.  Examples include: protective shorefast ice no longer in place during the hurricane force fall sea storms; acidification rates that may crash crab stocks in just 50 years; warming waters killing salmon fry and spurring growth of toxic algae.

Road Closed Ahead sign.

An old runway at the Naval Arctic Research Lab in Barrow was closed following storm surge flooding in October 2010. In the past decade, the ice pack has consistently remained far offshore in the early autumn, allowing strong winds to blow over the open waters of the Beaufort Sea, whipping up fierce waves and driving flood waters ashore. Photo courtesy Dave Anderson.

In October, we participated in the planning and execution of the National Exercise Program’s Climate Change Preparedness & Resilience Exercise Series – Alaska Workshop. Aimed at reducing disaster response costs by promoting community resiliency FEMA, National Security Staff, and White House staff  heard four themes emerge:  1) Alaskan communities are aware of the need to take action but require and feel entitled to federal assistance; 2) Mechanisms are needed to prepare for inevitable disasters not just immediate ones; 3) Federal assistance cost-benefit rules based on population are barriers to achieving resiliency in Alaskan communities; and 4) The Immediate Action Working Group and other statewide, cross sector advisory groups the regional team participated in under the Palin Administration’s Climate Change Sub-cabinet produced results and should be reconstituted.

Ocean acidification prospects are so dire, many Alaskans feel helpless.   In December of 2014, the NOAA partners on our team Alaska Ocean Observing System, Alaska Sea Grant, and the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy held a workshop on Ocean Acidification and a follow-on policy meeting to encourage research and mitigation action. This along with OA monitoring helps commercial fishermen and citizens adapt.

In 2016 look for a risk assessment tool for shellfish harvesters worried about paralytic and amnesic shellfish poisoning, results from the January Pacific warm water anomaly workshop, and actions from the Arctic Executive Steering Committee’s coastal erosion working group.

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