SHISHMAREF, Alaska, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- An Alaskan coastal village faces a vote that could make it one of the first towns in the United States to move due to climate change.
The 650 residents of Shishmaref, north of the Bering Strait, are faced with the possibility of moving their entire town because rising sea levels are threatening to wipe away the town and the island it sits on. The results were expected to be announced Wednesday.
Relocation would cost an estimated $180 million. If the town approves the move, residents will choose a new location at a town meeting later, the Shishmaref city clerk's office said.
"All 650 people there are my family," said 18-year-old resident Esau Sinnok. "And not being able to see them every day like I'm used to -- if I had to move to the city -- I'd be heartbroken and sad not seeing all of their faces."
The Army Corps of Engineers has identified nine Alaskan villages at imminent risk because of erosion and rising seas. They have been urged to move, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Another 200 to 300 villages face similar risks in the next few decades, the Corps said.
The village of Newtok, about 370 miles south of Shishmaref, has already voted to move using state and federal funds from HUD, spokeswoman Maria Gonoa said.