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The federal government allocated a portion of the $3.5 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improving water and sanitation structure for tribal communities across the United States. Through Indian Health Service, or IHS, the law allocates 700 million dollars per year over a span of five years. 

In Western Alaska, the money will meet the needs of unserviced communities trying to build wastewater and sanitation systems. IHS representatives visited the communities of St. Michael, Stebbins and Shaktoolik to learn about and prioritize projects for funding.

people around a tank
St. Michael’s 1.2 million gallon water holding tank was built using bolted steel panels and insulated with exterior spray foam. (this tank is 36 years old) Photo courtesy of Norton Sound Health Corporation, shared with permission (2022).

Retired CEO of Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation and Shaktoolik resident, Eugene Asicksik saw the visit as an opportunity for IHS to hear about the concerns and problems that Shaktoolik villagers face.

“If it comes from within the village and if there is blood, sweat and tears coming out of the village, then it’s most likely going to work. But it’s not going to work if they’re sitting in Washington or Juneau or Anchorage and then trying to impose it onto a community. There should be some village input,” Asickisik said.

Current projects include reservoir improvements in Shishmaref, a solid waste upgrade in Mountain Village and a back up well in Savoonga.

Image at top: To better understand water and sewer needs in rural Alaska, a group of Norton Sound Health Corporation employees and board members accompanied Indian Health Service representatives on a trip to visit three local villages on June 1. Photo courtesy of Norton Sound Health Corporation, used with permission.

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