With President Barack Obama's visit to Alaska now over, village life on the edge of the Chukchi Sea continues with uncertainty.
Kivalina is wedged onto a sliver of gravel not even a quarter-mile across at its widest, between the open sea to the west and the expansive Kivalina Lagoon to the east. Regular fall storms there are about to begin again. A revetment put in place by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2010 has done well holding back pounding waves from the Chukchi Sea.
But there's a continuing threat in the lagoon. Currents in the lagoon produced by the Wulik and Kivalina Rivers slowly eat away at east side of the barrier island. The closest home is now within a few feet of the water at high tide. Aside from several dozen small boulders 29-year-old Carlos Sage has placed at the foundation of the orange house where he was born, his home is unprotected.
Another continuing concern: Kivalina has no running water. There is no sewer. Residents must remove their feces from 5-gallon "honey buckets" fitted with toilet seat lids and place the bags outside for pickup. It's primitive in Kivalina. And a solution is mired in politics.
Most folks here look to relocation as the answer. Moving the village to a more secure site has been talked about for decades. But so far there's no firm plan.
These are the primary concerns people living in Kivalina want President Obama to understand. That he came to their region, and that he mentioned their plight in his remarks to more than a thousand neighbors in nearby Kotzebue, gives hope that help is on the way.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing