The Biden administration will pay three Native-American tribes a total of $75 million to relocate from coastal areas or rivers that the Interior Department says are facing urgent threats from climate change.
Two of the communities are located in Alaska, and the other is Washington state. Each will receive $25 million to move their key buildings onto higher ground and away from rising waters, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The expectation is that homes will be relocated after the key buildings.
The federal government will give eight more tribes $5 million each to plan for relocation, the Times said.
"It gave me goose bumps when I found out we got that money," Joseph John Jr., a council member in Newtok, a village in southwest Alaska, told the Times.
"It will mean a lot to us."
Besides Newtok, the other tribes to receive $25 million were Napakiak, a village on the shore of the Kuskokwim River, and the Quinault Indian Nation, on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.
Eight other tribes will get $5 million each to consider whether to relocate and to start planning if they decide to do so.
The Interior Department's spending is intended to create a blueprint for the federal government to help other communities move away from vulnerable areas.
The Times story came on the same day the Interior Department hosted the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit, which provides an opportunity for the administration and tribal leaders to discuss ways the federal government can work with them.
Proponents of the funding say that the high initial cost to relocate could save money long-term by reducing the amount of damage from future coastal disasters and money that would be needed to rebuild.
That's not to say relocation money prevents other problems from developing in the coastal areas.
After the Obama administration gave Louisiana $48 million in 2016 to relocate the small coastal village of Isle de Jean Charles, residents couldn't agree on where the new village should be built. People began moving into their new homes this year.
There's also challenges in deciding which places to help first.
After the Bureau of Indian Affairs held a contest this year for up to $3 million in relocation money, 11 tribal nations applied but only five received funding.
There was no application process for the $25 million awards announced Wednesday, the Times reported. Instead, the Bureau of Indian Affairs considered tribes that had done some degree of planning for relocation and applied five criteria that included the amount of risk currently faced.
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