Homes, businesses, and city infrastructure in Valdez were severely damaged during the March 1964 earthquake that struck Alaska. Worse still, it became clear in the aftermath that the town was situated on unstable sediment deposited by Valdez Glacier Stream. When, not if, the next big quake struck, Valdez would simply slide farther into the sea. The only viable solution was to move the town to a new location. In her 2021 book Valdez Rises, Tabitha Gregory details the Herculean effort required to relocate an entire community.
Gregory tells the story through a comprehensive rehashing of the events from 1964 through 1969. She details the many agencies involved, points of contention that inevitably surfaced, and big decisions including choosing a new site and designing the new community’s layout. She also brings the saga to life through the personal stories of some residents who underwent the move.
Gregory was a Valdez resident for more than two decades and worked as the executive director of the Valdez Museum for much of that time. She brings to the book both a deep knowledge of the town’s history and the perspective of someone who knows how the move affected the town’s identity.
As Gregory notes, the story is especially relevant today: An increasing number of communities are undergoing relocation because their old locations are being threatened by the impacts of climate change. Contemporary relevance aside, the story is one that’s worth knowing for anyone who loves Valdez.