Kivalina is at the tip of an 8-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 prevent erosion
- Energized date: 08/08/1971
- Current Population: 402
- # of Consumers: 113
- Incorporation Type: 2nd Class City
- Federally recognized tribe
- Total Generating Capacity (kW): 1,179
- One school
- Local health clinic
- Wells have proven unsuccessful in Kivalina. Water is drawn from the Wulik River and treated and stored in a tank. It Water is hauled by residents from this tank. One-third of residents have tanks which provide running water for the kitchen, but homes are not fully plumbed.
- The school and clinic have individual water and sewer systems
- Residents haul their own honeybuckets to bunkers
- Electricity provided by AVEC
- Gravel airstrip
- Emergency Services have coastal and air access
Kivalina's economy depends on subsistence practices. Seal, walrus, whale, salmon, whitefish and caribou are utilized. The school, City, Maniilaq Association, village council, airlines and local stores provide year-round jobs. The Red Dog Mine also offers some employment. Six residents hold commercial fishing permits. Native carvings and jewelry are produced from ivory and caribou hooves. The community is interested in developing an Arts and Crafts Center that could be readily moved to the new city site.
Culture and Activities
Kivalina is a traditional Inupiat Eskimo village. Subsistence activities, including whaling, provide most food sources. The sale or importation of alcohol is banned in the village. The community needs a road to the proposed new City site, 7.5 miles away. Crowley Marine Services barges goods from Kotzebue during July and August. Small boats, ATVs and snowmachines are used for local travel. Two main hunting trails follow the Kivalina and Wulik Rivers.
- Transitional climate zone with long, cold winters and cool summers
- Average low temperature during January is -15
- Average high during July is 57
- Temperature extremes have been measured from -54 to 85
- Snowfall averages 57 in/yr
- Precipitation averages 8.6 in/yr
- The Chukchi Sea is ice-free and open to boat traffic from mid-June to the first of November.