Kivalina is at the tip of an eight-mile barrier reef located between the Chukchi Sea and Kivalina River. It lies 80 air miles northwest of Kotzebue. The area encompasses 1.9 sq. miles of land and 2.0 sq. miles of water. Kivalina has long been a stopping-off place for seasonal travelers between arctic coastal areas and Kotzebue Sound communities. It is the only village in the region where people hunt the bowhead whale. At one time, the village was located at the north end of the Kivalina Lagoon. It was reported as “Kivualinagmut” in 1847 by Lt. Zagoskin of the Russian Navy. Lt. G.M. Stoney of the U.S. Navy reported the village as “Kuveleek” in 1885. A post office was established in 1940. An airstrip was built in 1960. Kivalina incorporated as a City in 1969. The major means of transportation into the community are plane and barge.
During the 1970s, new houses, a new school and an electric system were constructed in the village. Prior to 1976, high school students from Noatak would attend school in Kivalina, and board with local families. Due to severe erosion and wind-driven ice damage, the City intends to relocate to a new site 7.5 miles away. Relocation alternatives have been studied and a new site has been designed and engineered. At one point the relocation was estimated to cost $102 million. Continuing erosion from coastal storms has threatened many homes and buildings, the airport runway, as well as AVEC’s power plant and tank farm. Erosion from a failed seawall caused more loss of land and in fall 2007 AVEC had to promptly respond to the emergency and move it’s bulk fuel tank farm to the only available space left.
Original power plant
Original tank farm, reinforced with extra sand bags
(Most of this beach shoreline is gone now)
Building temporary seawall during storm surge to mitigate erosion