Public Infrastructure

Story: New wind turbines offset diesel generation in rural Alaskan communities.

In 2015, the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) operated more wind turbines than any electric utility in Alaska, with 34 turbines in 12 communities. Read more…

Public Infrastructure

Reduce carbon-based fuel emissions.

Individuals, communities, and other entities can reduce the use of carbon-based fuel, conserve energy and invest in alternative energy sources, more efficient energy systems, and cleaner burning engines. Local power utilities and gas companies can participate in planning efforts. Individuals, communities and regional entities can help drive state/national/global standards and investments. Homeowners and housing providers can get energy audits and invest in money-saving weatherization and improvements to existing homes and infrastructure. Future homes can be built to standards that are energy efficient (if not energy-neutral), built to withstand local weather, are mold-resistant and can be moved if necessary.

Adapt infrastructure to allow community mobility.

New technology could allow communities and resource managers to be more flexible, resource efficient, and potentially more physically mobile and adapt more quickly to changes in the land, weather and species range. New types of vehicles might become necessary to access subsistence resources, for transportation from village to village, as well as search and rescue. Buildings might become more easily moveable. Stakeholders can work together to increase funding and technical support for improved infrastructure and encourage funders to change their standards to fund more sustainable and mobile infrastructure (e.g., change/amend Indian Health Service infrastructure standards to allow innovative water infrastructure). Adaptive technology would be portable, self-contained, easy to maintain and repair, have a low environmental impact, be easily and safely disposable, intuitive to use, climate appropriate, cost-effective, and might draw upon traditional technologies.

Explore protect-in-place strategies.

Communities threatened by storm surges and erosion can explore options to protect the village in place. Protect-in-place strategies include protecting shorelines by extending rock barriers to slow or prevent erosion, living with water by building on pilings, and other adaptations that allow the village to stay where it already is. Protective infrastructure might include elevating individual structures above the flood zone (or other threatened area), relocating the structures within a community and away from a threatened location, or constructing facility-specific protective barriers. Complex protective infrastructure might include complex revetments, protective harbors and sea walls, natural materials protective barriers, and/or dredging to accommodate access to vital infrastructure, vessel, or water. Some interventions may require improved communication among landowners to address legal issues or for example, to extend erosion barriers from public lands onto private property with owners’ permission. The choice of technology for infrastructure projects also matters: is the chosen option compatible with location geology, climate, size of population and growth trends? Will it be responsive to anticipated environmental changes? Will it cause local environmental impacts?

Explore relocation options.

Partial or entire community relocation may become necessary if the land can no longer support buildings and infrastructure, although moving buildings and other infrastructure can increase the cost to maintain them if they are located far from each other and from the existing community settlement. Strategic retreat allows partial relocation of endangered infrastructure while maintaining access to traditional lands. Relocating entire communities is extremely challenging for social, political and financial reasons. Communities may need technical assistance to determine which infrastructure they should invest in if they seek to move, where to build homes and infrastructure with permafrost and flooding, and natural infrastructure strategies. Increasing the ability to exchange land and resolve the site control issues that sometimes prevent communities from developing new village sites could also help.

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