Three and a half months after its water plant burned down, the village of Tuluksak has secured enough funding to build a new one.
When Tuluksak lost its source of drinking water to a fire on Jan. 16, grant applications for a new one were already underway. The water plant was an old building that needed to be replaced. According to a representative from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the building had lasted 40 years, double its projected lifespan.
The Environmental Protection Agency had written the village an estimate for a new water plant and washateria back in 2018. It priced the facility out to $6.7 million. A couple months after the fire, $6.5 million of the funding had been secured through the Indian Health Service, and the remaining $200,000 was covered by the Denali Commission.
But now, according to EPA spokesperson Dennis Wagner, the state’s Village Safe Water Program recently revised that estimate, adding about $1.5 million to the cost. Wagner said the estimate went up because of high material costs following the pandemic and an accelerated construction schedule.
The EPA stepped in and forwarded the village that amount. It also waived the fund-matching requirement.
Wagner said that the plan is for Tuluksak’s permanent water plant and washateria to be built by 2023. After that, the tribe said it would like to add running water to homes as well, which the village has never had except in school-owned teacher housing.