Weak sea ice in February presages a longer summer and fall season without protective ice along the shore.
And that lengthening ice free period – it has increased from 3 months to “as much as 5 months” one report found — is when Kivalina is vulnerable to fall sea storms, which can hurl large waves at the town.
For the Obama administration, the problem is lack of funding.
Without sea ice to mute their force, the waves can strip away the island’s very existence through erosion.
“As we grew up, we’ve never seen the water come over the village, but in the last 10 years, it came over the village at least three times,” Millie Hawley, president of the Native Village of Kivalina, said last week in a meeting with Jewell.
It’s a question already facing Kivalina and a handful of other native Alaskan villages, and in the coming decades could apply to numerous other towns along U. “We have a whole bunch of infrastructure that we need to move, that the government should be moving themselves,” said Colleen Swan, who sits on the City Council and also works in disaster preparedness for the community. Interior secretary Sally Jewell came to Kivalina last week to highlight the problems facing the town, and President Obama has proposed $50.4 million in federal spending to help Native American communities grapple with climate change.
“I would like to live without having to worry about having to evacuate, or having to run.” The role the U. Yet that is less than half of what’s estimated to be needed to relocate Kivalina alone.
“The President’s climate change agenda has only siphoned precious taxpayer dollars away from the real problems facing the American people,” said Sen. “Senator Murkowski acknowledges the impacts of climate change on Alaska’s coastal communities and believes that the federal government should step up its relief role, but she does not want Alaska’s rural communities used merely as political talking points,” said her spokesman Matthew Felling.
But Murkowski does support using federal dollars to help Alaska native communities protect their communities and even relocate if that’s what’s they choose to do, he said.
For well over a decade, experts analyzing Kivalina’s situation have called it untenable. Army Corps of Engineers to buy the town some time, may have prevented the worst during a powerful winter cyclone in November 2011, which tore down doors and drove waters against the barrier.
In 2003, the Government Accountability Office said that Kivalina was in “imminent danger” from erosion and from getting over-washed in a storm. In a later 2009 report, the GAO added that no federal agency was taking the lead in addressing threats to Kivalina and other Alaskan native villages, even though everyone could see a potential disaster coming. But the Corps — and everyone in Kivalina — knows that’s only a temporary solution.
Last week, Sally Jewell made the first visit to the town by an interior secretary in its 110 year history.
“Your story will help the world understand what’s happening right here,” said Jewell at a town meeting in the basketball court of Kivalina’s only school, a day before announcing million in funding to help native communities adjust. It will help us bring the kind of resources that we have to bring to bear for people like you, and for people in other parts of the world that live in coastal communities that are at high risk.” Residents of Kivalina suggest the U. government may have a special responsibility to relocate them — after all, they say, it helped put them there over a century ago.
Congress, controlled by Republicans skeptical of federal spending and interventions to stem climate change, may not approve even that.