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Kivalina Inter-Agency Planning Work Group


Meeting Agendas and Summaries Reports and Studies DCRA's Community Resilience Programs

The Kivalina Inter-Agency Planning Work Group was formed by the Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA) in partnership with the community of Kivalina during the development of the Kivalina Strategic Management Plan. As part of the planning process, the inter-agency planning work group was organized to serve as a mechanism for coordinating resources and technical assistance to Kivalina from state and federal agencies, regional organizations and local governments. This effort was part of the two-year Alaska Community Coastal Protection Project, funded through the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP).

Prior to this, DCRA provided technical assistance and funding to Kivalina by a Community Adaptation Planning Grant through the Alaska Climate Change Impact Mitigation Program. Through this effort, Kivalina conducted the Kivalina Consensus-Building Project in order to reach consensus on steps the community will take to respond to threats of natural hazards including erosion, flooding and storm surge.

Although the CIAP ended in 2016, the Kivalina Inter-Agency Planning Work Group will continue to meet at the community's request to help Kivalina implement the strategic actions of the Kivalina Strategic Management Plan in order to increase community resilience. For status on Kivalina's strategic actions, please see the tables at the bottom of this webpage.

Kivalina Background

Kivalina is a traditional Inupiat community located in the Northwest Arctic Borough of Alaska. The community is located on a barrier island off the Chukchi Sea, 83 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Historically, the marine waters around Kivalina have been ice-free from early July through late October, but later freeze-up and earlier melting have resulted in longer ice-free periods during recent years. This has left Kivalina facing significant risks from storms, such as flooding and erosion.

This barrier island has long been subject to the processes of accretion and erosion. Residents of the community have expressed concerns about storm surges and erosion for decades. The longer ice-free period that has resulted from the changing climate 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, while on the sea side of the island, fall storm surges create annual coastal flooding and beach erosion. It has long been apparent that the island will eventually succumb to natural forces and that the village will have to be moved. Extensive studies have been undertaken, alternative village sites have been identified, and cost estimates have been prepared.

Strategic Management Planning

From 2014 to 2016, Kivalina was engaged in a community planning process with the Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA) to develop the Kivalina Strategic Management Plan which provides a holistic approach for adapting to environmental threats and increasing community resilience to climate impacts and natural hazards. As part of the planning process, an Inter-Agency Planning Work Group was organized to serve as a vehicle for coordinating resources and technical assistance to Kivalina from state and federal agencies, regional organizations and local governments.

graphic of Kivalina's Strategic Focus Area Diagram
Click to view larger version of the Kivalina's Strategic Focus Area Diagram

The Kivalina's Strategic Management Plan is organized by Strategic Focus Areas (see diagram, right). Within each focus area, imminent and critical action items are identified first, followed by short-, medium-, and long-term action items. For each action item, the following details were identified:

  • Responsible Party: Which agency or organization has the primary responsibility for championing the action?
  • Potential Partners/Coordination: What entities may be willing to partner with the responsible party and how can the partnership be coordinated?
  • Timeframe for Implementation: When is the action item needed?
  • Estimated Cost: What is the planning level cost estimate(when available)?
  • Current Status: What is the current status of the project?
  • Reference: What is the source of the action item, if it originated from another community plan?

The action items were identified during the first year of community planning in the community and during the first two Interagency Planning Work Group Meetings. Completing these action items does not automatically mean Kivalina is a resilient community; resilience is a process of continual improvement.

Strategic Actions

Kivalina prioritized Strategic Actions based on community need:

  • Imminent Actions are those actions the community needs in place today to protect people from harm during a hazard event.
  • Critical Actions are those action items that, if not completed in 5 years, will result in a negative impact on community safety. Implementation of critical actions should be undertaken immediately with a goal of completing or substantially completing the action within 5 years. The identified critical actions are actions that are especially important for increasing community resiliency now.
  • Short Term Actions are those action items that can be realistically completed in 0-5 years
  • Medium Term Actions are those action items that can be realistically completed in 6-10 years
  • Long Term Actions action items that will take 11 years or more to complete

The current focus of the Kivalina Inter-Agency Planning Work Group is to help Kivalina implement the Imminent and Critical Actions from the Strategic Management Plan .

Emergency Drills and Exercises: Emergency drills and exercises provide an opportunity to practice aspects of an emergency plan, allowing people to become familiar with what is expected of them during an emergency, and help identify whether the plan meets community needs or if changes need to be made. Kivalina has an emergency plan and an evacuation plan, but there has not been a community drill for either one in recent years. The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management provided Kivalina with technical assistance to prepare a Small community Emergency Response Plan (SCERP). The community plans to organize a mock disaster to drill on the roles and responsibilities assigned to community residents in the SCERP.
Personal Emergency Kits: During a storm, Kivalina will likely be cut off from the rest of the state and will need to be self-sufficient until outside assistance can arrive. Residents need personal emergency kits that will last 7 to 10 days until additional resources can be brought to the village. Kivalina can either work with partners to find sufficient funding to purchase kits, find organizations willing to donate supplies, or encourage residents to assemble their own kits. Kivalina plans to hold a community event where individual households will assemble a personal emergency kit.
Water and Sewer Upgrades: The majority of homes in Kivalina rely on water hauled from the washeteria and honey buckets. Water and sewer upgrades were considered critical by the community to improve their quality of life and public health. Based on community needs, three key actions were identified:
  • Improve delivery of drinking water and sewage disposal services.
  • Obtain an additional water supply.
  • Protect the water source.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) is the primary water/sewer provider for Kivalina. In 2016, ANTHC completed Portable Alternative Sanitation System, Final Report, Kivalina, Alaska. This report describes a pilot project designed to address immediate water and sanitation needs in Kivalina and assesses the feasibility of portable in-home water and sanitation units to provide an immediate improvement in quality of life for residents across rural Alaska that are currently without sanitation systems in their homes.

In March 2019, the Portable Alternative Sanitation System (PASS) project went into its full manufacturing phase and funding has been secured for 50 PASS units in Kivalina.

School Access Road: The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development is planning to build a new school for Kivalina. However, the school will not be built at the existing village site; rather it was decided that the new school should be built in an area called Kisimigiuqtuq, approximately 7 miles away. Kivalina needs a school access road in order to start construction on the school and to transport students back and forth. The road would provide additional benefits such as better access to additional subsistence resources and would serve as an evacuation route, if needed. In January 2018, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities completed a Final Environmental Assessment of the Kivalina Evacuation and School Site Road which resulted in a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The proposed action includes establishment of a safe, reliable, all-season Kivalina Lagoon crossing during evacuation mobilization, construction of an all-season gravel access road between Kivalina Island and the desired Kisimigiuqtuq Hill (K-Hill) evacuation site, and analyses of material locations proximate to potential routes to determine their feasibility and evaluate environmental impacts.
Protective Structure for Airport: The airport is Kivalina’s primary transportation connection to the rest of the state and is vulnerable to erosion. An October 2015 storm caused substantial erosion near the runway, and the community had to use supersacks as a temporary erosion control measure. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is working with Kivalina to develop a permanent solution. DOT&PF has requested $7 million in the State budget for this project. The Denali Commission is providing funding to Kivalina for revetment design and a flood study. The Denali Commission is also providing funding to Kivalina for emergency erosion control.
Protective Structure for Landfill: The landfill is vulnerable to erosion and needs a protective structure. The Denali Commission is providing funding to Kivalina for emergency erosion control.
Increase Use of Traditional Knowledge: Alaska Natives have a unique understanding of the connections between people and their environment. Kivalina should work with its partner agencies to ensure that traditional knowledge is not discounted. Rather, Kivalina needs to encourage the blending of traditional knowledge and western science so that all organizations can develop a better understanding of climate change and community impacts.

Contact for More Information

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