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Voters in swiftly eroding Alaskan community opt to build new school in alternative location

Kivalina is a small community of 438 inhabitants on an 8-mile stretch of barrier reef on the Northwest Coast of Alaska and has been reduced from 54 acres to 27 acres in the last few decades by increased erosion caused by the dramatic effects of climate change. Reachable only by sea, air, 4-wheeled vehicles and snowmobiles, the community has been forced to make some major decisions for its continued existence and a recent vote to construct a new school seven miles away in the nearby community of Kisimagiuqtuq has been positive. Kivalina City Clerk Marilyn Swan has announced the unofficial count as 107-11 in favour of the school being built at the new location.

A feasibility study will now be carried out and funding requested from various investment sources. It is thought that the new school will cost up to $40m and replace the outdated 1970s building in Kivalina which has become too small for the current population. Officials have expressed hope that this is the first step in the relocation of the Kivalina community, as its current site is rapidly diminishing in size due to constant erosion from the Chukchi Sea. There are no hotels, restaurants, movie theatres or recreation centres in the community and only basic public facilities available. 86 of the 106 structures in Kivalina are residential and the construction of an accessible road is being sought.

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