Assessing Coastal Road Flood Risk in Arctic Alaska, a Case Study from Hooper Bay

Miller, A. C., T. Ravens, 2022: Assessing Coastal Road Flood Risk in Arctic Alaska, a Case Study from Hooper Bay. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 10(3), doi: 10.3390/jmse10030406.


Rising waters and land subsidence are increasing relative sea levels in western and northern Alaska, forcing communities to relocate or armor in place. To appropriately plan and make equitable decisions, there is a need to forecast the risk of flood exposure in coastal Alaskan communities and to evaluate methods to mitigate that risk. This paper conducts use-inspired science to evaluate the current and future flood exposure of roads in Hooper Bay, Alaska, proposes a unit cost of flood exposure to estimate the cost of flooding, and compares various mitigation efforts including elevating roads and building dikes. Nine historic storms and their associated flood depths were subject to return-period analysis and modeled for several sea level rise scenarios. Based on the simulated road flood exposure (km hours/storm), and the storm-return period, an annual flood exposure (km hours/year) was computed. Then, the unit cost of flood exposure (USD/km hours) was determined as the ratio of the cost of flood mitigation (USD/year) to the annual flood exposure mitigated by the project. The analysis found that the unit cost of flood exposure, in conjunction with flood exposure calculations, does provide an approximate flood risk calculation, though a unitized cost of flood exposure needs to be divided into lump sum costs and materials costs. The analysis also found that dikes may be a more cost-effective alternative than road elevation. The flood risk calculation, based on the unit cost of flood exposure, could be made for all of the communities in a given region to identify those communities that face a high flood risk. Furthermore, if one divides the unit cost of flood exposure by the population, one obtains a cost/benefit ratio that potentially could be used to prioritize flood mitigation work.