Kivalina Residents To Vote On New School Location

Voters in one of Alaska’s most storm-eroded coastal villages will decide Tuesday whether to build a new school seven miles away – a project one local official believes could hasten efforts to relocate the crumbling community.

Janet Mitchell, Kivalina’s city administrator, said a yes vote Tuesday also could speed construction of a long-desired road that would provide economic development and better access for subsistence hunters in the Inupiat Eskimo village.

Kivalina is a community of more than 400 people 625 miles northwest of Anchorage. It is built on an 8-mile barrier reef between the Kivalina River and Chukchi Sea, and is reachable only by boat or plane.

Sea ice historically protected the village, whose economy is based in part on fishing plus subsistence hunting of whale, seal, walrus, and caribou. But with climate change, the ice is forming later and melting sooner because of higher temperatures, and that has left it unprotected longer from storm waves and surges that pummel coastal communities in Alaska.

Mitchell said Kivalina was 54 acres in size decades ago and erosion has squeezed it to half that size.

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