Sponsor: PEIC

Author: Anne Garland, ARIES Research Associate, www.ariesnonprofit.com

SHA 2017 PEIC Blog Photos Garland

What is CRM and Disaster Risk Reduction? This blog post is about improved CRM skill, public education, and decision making with regional and local communities to reduce risks from environmental hazards that threaten their archaeological, heritage, and preservation sites.  

While “threatened sites” or “salvage archaeology” are “traditional” labels for these scenarios, the pervasive complexity of these situations for communities are now rapid, or are waiting the inevitable with gradual onset. Are we up to this task, that is, to provide professional decisions to communities facing this frequent and certain situation that impacts their cultural resources?

I am using this “label”, CRM and DRR, for any eco-heritage mitigation, preparations, response, or recovery due to hazards, risks, and disaster events. This is why we began the EnvArch Facebook group for those who work in archaeology, historic preservation, ecosystem planning, and related disciplines to share case studies and information for improved training. The goal is to better prepare CRM consultants for communities making tough decisions about their historic sites, buildings, and districts due to sea level rise, storm surges, flooding, wildfires, and other hazards.

The SHA 2015 and 2016 panels were about this topic and we will continue this year at the SHA 2017 conference. Through those in the EnvArch group, this focus has spread to other professional societies — SfAA, AAA, SAA — and other preservation societies as conference sessions. It is a global scenario and is rapidly increasing. See IHOPE. They now have an emerging hub related to this global concern. And this recent forum sponsored by ICOMOS and NAPC


While I assist North Slope Borough Risk Management (NSB RM) with CRM decisions, which are now included in their Hazard Mitigation Plans, they have limited resources for CRM mitigation. However, as a local initiative, it must be accomplished by the community through politically correct protocol.

Our non-profit works with the NSB RM in developing and implementing the HERMYS Program (Historical Ecology for Risk Management: Youth Sustainability), which has many diverse integrated projects and spin offs. Most of them are community driven with organizations as partners. CRM and DRR is one of the integrated projects working with the resident archaeologist, Anne Jensen. She will report on the panel about updates for several threatened sites along the North Slope coast for which her UIC firm assisted.

In the NSB, Anne Jensen, works for UIC Science, the Barrow Native Corporation. She is available for CRM contractual services by the tribal government as necessary. Due to lack of capacity of the NSB RM, HERMYS team assists her efforts at threatened sites along the coast.

Due to the storm surge on 8/26/2015 (Video 1), huge sections of the bluffs along Barrow collapsed and spilled out archaeological remains (Photo 2). This is happening all along the North Slope shoreline, but is the first storm to impact the Barrow bluffs. Besides the archaeological site, the bluffs include current residences. The Barrow bluffs retain the archaeological heritage of the community (Photo 1). The 2014 PolarTREC teacher of the HERMYS team created a video journal about Utqiagvik.

The NSB policy to assess and protect the impacted site had little precedent since most effected sites were on UIC property (Native Corporation). NSB has no archaeologist. For the August surge, the Inupiat Heritage Center (IHLC) made decisions as a NSB department. However, there was no consult with the Risk Managers. presumably due to lack of understanding about their integral role, through federal funding, by Department of Homeland Security. See CRM and Disaster Management polices for context:

  1. https://heritagepreservation.org/PDFS/Disaster.pdf
  2. https://www.fema.gov/office-environmental-planning-and-historic-preservation

Through the decisions of IHLC, a CRM firm was hired from Fairbanks. The CRM firm was not as familiar with the community concerns about eroding burials and permafrost sites. The collection management, and storage of materials are at IHLC, which has limited archaeological capabilities. The price tag for this salvage archaeology was high and which must be justifiable as the NSB Risk Management applied for a federal disaster declaration for public assistance.

For NSB, lessons learned for CRM and DRR relates to protocol concerning mitigation practices prior to the next surge event. Having CRM in the Hazard Mitigation Plans is an essential step for all communities; however, mitigation implementations, rather than disaster response, is a cost benefit decision for all communities.

What is the tolerable risk to cultural resources, especially if it provides tourism and community heritage? Are CRM firms getting DRR training and seeking best practices to advise and consult with Emergency Managers about cultural resources and their impacts? Free training is available through the Emergency Management Institute with independent study courses so professional archaeologists are prepared to assist with community decision makers. https://training.fema.gov/emi.aspx

There is no longer uncertainity about surge events along the Barrow coast during the late summer and fall. They will occur. However, the severity of impacts and surge locations are variable. Impacts to the remnants of the bluffs and their ancient deposits are under siege by an angry Arctic without sea ice.   

With the extreme temperature differences this fall (20 degrees warmer, nytimes arctic-global-warming), the sea ice is not forming as rapidly so who knows what the next surge season will bring…. The  2016 surge season began in  July through November. This was the longest surge season to date. Fortutiously, ice shelves broke from the polar ice cap and acted as barriers with the multiple west wind storms (Photo 4). The ice was pushed to the North Slope coastline over and over again. This was atypical but protective  at least for the 2016 surge season.

At SHA 2017 on Jan. 5 at 2-4 p.m., come to the CRM and DRR Forum to learn the outcomes of the NSB case study and  those of the DRR Panel. They plan to post their case studies soon for your review on the EnvArch group. Bring your case studies for the interactive session. And join the EnvArch Facebook group for continuing education!