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Alaska Community Coastal Protection Project

Kivalina Project Page

Kivalina Interagency Planning Committee Agendas and Meeting Notes Kivalina Community Gathering Documents Kivalina Strategic Management Plan Documents Kivalina Reports and Studies DCRA's Community Resilience and Climate Adaptation Programs

Kivalina is a traditional Iñupiaq community located on a 5.5-mile long barrier island off the Chukchi Sea, 83 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The 2010 U.S. Census population of 374 live in houses clustered around the southern end of the barrier island, which is bordered on the west by the Chukchi Sea and on the east by Kivalina Lagoon. Historically, the marine waters around Kivalina have been ice-free from early July through late October, but later freeze-up and earlier melting has resulted in longer ice-free periods during recent years. Kivalina is the only village in the Northwest Arctic Borough that hunts bowhead whales, and it is a member of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.

The barrier island on which Kivalina is located has long been subject to the processes of accretion and erosion. Residents of the community have expressed concerns about storm surges and erosion since soon after the community was first established (Replogle 1911). As a result of a changing climate, there is a longer ice-free period that makes the village vulnerable to dangerous fall storms. Storm events in 2004 and 2005 eroded the Chukchi Sea shoreline, threatening critical infrastructure and facilities including the community fuel tank farm, school and airstrip. Chronic erosion on the lagoon side of the island has threatened homes, which are in danger of falling into the lagoon. On the seaside of the island, fall storm surges create annual coastal flooding and beach erosion.


The village of Kivalina, 2016. Photo: Sally Russell Cox, DCRA

Kivalina’s Community Resilience Project

The Native Village of Kivalina IRA Council expressed the desire to develop a comprehensive strategy to increase Kivalina’s resilience over the next 10-20 years. This process was accomplished in the following steps:


A Community Coordinator was hired by the Native Village of Kivalina IRA Council to represent Kivalina and work with the Planning Team (the DCRA project manager and contractors from HDR and Rim First People).

The first year of the project was spent working directly with the Kivalina community to gather information on the community’s vision for the future, and local issues, values, goals and objectives that would inform the development of the Strategic Management Plan.

  • A Literature Review of the reports and studies prepared for Kivalina (many of these documents are available under the “Reports and Studies” drop-down menu.

The Community Coordinator conducted a series of door-to-door surveys, interviews and classroom exercises to increase understanding of what was important to residents of Kivalina:

  • A Community Background Survey introduced the Strategic Management Plan project to community members, assessed their knowledge of previous planning activities and helped the Planning Team understand the needs and concerns of the community, especially regarding the natural hazards threatening the community.
  • A Community Values Survey to help the Planning Team understand community members’ top values and therefore, priorities for the Strategic Management Plan
  • A Classroom Exercise to help the Planning Team understand the vision of Shaktoolik’s youth and what they hope their community will be like in the future
  • Elder Interviews to help the Planning Team understand the change village elders have seen and what their hopes are for their descendants
  • A Community Gathering was held at the end of the first year involving all members of the Kivalina community. The combined community issues and values gathered were presented in poster-format and participants were asked to rank their top three issues and values. The results of the Community Gathering and the surveys, interviews and classroom were compiled into a Background Planning Report that would inform the development of the Strategic Management Plan in the second year.


The second year brought the community together with state and federal agencies and organizations, Inter-Agency Planning Work Groups, to begin the development of the Strategic Management Plan. Based on the community issues, values and priorities identified in Year One, the group identified Strategic Focus Areas that would be the focus of the Strategic Management Plan. Because the intent of the plan was to increase community resilience, this process needed to be comprehensive and holistic. Eight Strategic Focus Areas were identified:

graphic of Kivalina's Strategic Focus Area Diagram

  • Adaptable Built Environment
  • Safe and Sanitary Housing
  • Jobs and Economic Development
  • Proactive Emergency Management
  • Strengthened Traditional Culture
  • Leadership for the Future
  • Relocation
  • Other

Based on the eight Strategic Focus Areas, a Preliminary Planning Schedule, was prepared to guide the planning process. A Work Breakdown Structure, identified the broad range of Strategic Actions, to increase community resilience within each Strategic Focus Area. The Strategic Actions were then ranked by whether they were Imminent Actions (those actions the community needs in place today to protect people from harm during a hazard event), Critical Actions (those action items that, if not completed in 5 years, will result in a negative impact on community safety) , or Short-Term (strategic actions that can be realistically completed in 0-5 years) , Medium-Term (strategic actions that can be realistically completed in 6-10 years) or Long-Term Actions (strategic actions that will take 11 years or more to complete) .

The Kivalina Strategic Management Plan was completed in 2016. Together with the Strategic Management Plans for Shaktoolik and Shishmaref, Kivalina's Strategic Management Plan received a National Recognition Award by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) for ACEC's 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards.

Kivalina Inter-Agency Planning Work Group

The Alaska Community Coastal Protection Project was completed in 2016, however the Inter-Agency Planning Work Groups that were formed as part of the project still meet to help the three communities implement the strategic actions of their Strategic Management Plans. The Kivalina Inter-Agency Planning Work Group has a new web page where progress on the implementation of the Kivalina Strategic Management Plan is being documented.

For more information contact

Sally Russell Cox
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1650
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 269-4588
FAX: (907) 269-4563