Cape Blossom Road and Barge Landing
For more than thirty years, the City of Kotzebue and other organizations have been exploring the possibility of a barge landing that will serve not only Kotzebue, but all of Alaska. With the rising cost of living in Northwest Alaska, the regional entities are pushing aggressively to move the Cape Blossom Road and Barge Landing from concept to reality.
The first step in building the port is construction of a 11.6-mile access road from Kotzebue to Cape Blossom in order to gain access to the barge landing. Construction of the road received a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on December 20, 2013. With the road in progress, the next step will be design, permitting, and construction of the barge landing.
The Cape Blossom Barge Landing will help alleviate the high cost of living in the borough and provide a market access point for the abundant resources in our area. The cost of living is substantially higher in Kotzebue than in Anchorage, and even more so in the outer villages. Currently Kotzebue, the hub of the Northwest Arctic Borough, receives goods by a barge and lightering service that adds significant cost to all imported goods.
The Cape Blossom Barge Landing will alleviate this problem and have the following positive economic impacts on our region:
- Reduce the cost of shipping.
- Increase the Borough’s bulk fuel storage capacity.
- Increase access to lands needed to alleviate the housing shortage and for other community expansion.
- Provide a shipping and delivery access point for resource development.
Construction of a port will spur economic development in our area and will have a positive influence on the economies of urban areas such as Anchorage, where most of our purchased goods come from.
The Northwest Arctic Borough and the State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities signed a Memorandum of Agreement (IRIS # Z76884000 AKSAS # 76884) for the Maintenance and Management of the Cape Blossom Road Project starting at the end of the City of Kotzebue’s municipal boundary to the barge landing site.
Just off our coastline, the retreat of Arctic sea ice in the summer has cleared the way for more shipping and other vessel traffic in the area, as well as oil and gas exploration on the outer continental shelf of the Chukchi Sea. Already, the oil industry and the U.S. Coast Guard have ships in the area during the summer drilling season, although the nearest Coast Guard base is several days away in Kodiak. A port in the safe harbor area available at Cape Blossom will serve as a support area for the oil and gas industry, the mining industries, and the Coast Guard. The Cape Blossom Barge Landing will provide moorage, an access route to markets, and a staging area to respond to ship groundings, vessel emergencies, and oil spills in the Arctic in a timely manner.
The people of Northwest Alaska eagerly look forward to participating in the growing Arctic economic prosperity, while ensuring that development happens in a safe and sustainable way. Development of the port is an important avenue to move this vision forward.
Cosmos Hydro Project and Intertie
This project funds construction of an integrated power delivery system by utilizing hydro-electric power generation in the Cosmos Hill Region. The project entails building a large joint power plant and bulk fuel facility in Ambler to provide low-cost electricity to Ambler, Kobuk and Shungnak. Currently, diesel-fuel power generation is the only source of electricity for these three communities. The purpose of small hydroelectric plants would be to supplement diesel fuel used for power generation. Diesel fuel can be expensive when it has to be flown in due to shallow-water conditions on the Kobuk River. Run-of-river hydro sites in this area could provide electricity from about mid-April until early November, although the Kogoluktuk River may be able to provide power later into the winter, and earlier in the spring.
Run-of-river hydroelectric plants do not require a large dam, and rely on the natural flow volume of the stream or river. Such facilities tend to have far less environmental impacts compared to conventional dam-storage hydroelectric plants because of the lack of a large artificial reservoir. With proper siting, construction techniques, and operation and maintenance, run-of-river hydropower in the region could have minimal impacts on fisheries and other subsistence resources. Lower energy costs will benefit local residents and have the added impact of spurring further mineral development. The first phase of the project is estimated at $30 million and will build the joint power plant and intertie. $2.5 million is needed for the next phase, which includes the final permitting and design.
Noatak Airport and Road
The first part of this project consists of building a 28-mile gravel road that connects the village of Noatak to the Delong Mountain Road, the adjacent port facilities and the Red Dog Mine. The project is known as the Noatak DMTS road project.
The road will serve many useful functions, providing:
- Access to a secondary emergency airport for the mine.
- Direct transit access for the local workforce to the mine.
- Additional subsistence access to wilderness.
- Access to bulk freight and fuel storage at the mine site.
This project is a priority of both the borough and the community of Noatak. The road will provide much needed economic relief to the area. The cost of living in Noatak is among the highest in the State because low water levels in the Noatak River prevent cheaper barge delivery of goods. Gasoline and heating oil prices range from $10.00 to $15.00 per gallon. The proposed road allows goods to be trucked to Noatak from the DMTS port site with huge cost savings. This road is also part of the Governor’s Road to Resources program and is necessary to better support the operations of the Red Dog Mine. The estimated cost of the road project is $50 million.
The second part of the project includes building a new runway. Due to erosion, the current Noatak airport must be relocated. Additionally, jet service to the Red Dog Mine airport is canceled about 25% of the time due to weather conditions. To support mining in the area, the new Noatak airport should be a 7,000 foot jet-capable runway so that aircraft that supports mining could use this facility as an alternative when necessary. The project has $13 million in funding but will need additionally money to complete it.
Top Community Projects
Ambler Water and Sewer Connection
Our local housing authority has secured $4.5 million in federal funding to build ten new homes in Ambler. Since 2003, almost all construction in the community has been at a standstill due to concerns over the naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) found in the area. Last year the NOA issue was resolved through the passage of legislation. The community is now eager to build some new infrastructure and have some much-needed additional housing. The funding for the construction did not include the amount needed to connect the new homes to the existing water and sewer system. The requested funding will meet this need.
Kivalina Evacuation and Access Road
Kivalina is a traditional village lying precariously on a low-lying barrier island between the Chukchi Sea and Kivalina Lagoon. The community of Kivalina will have to be relocated due to significant erosion. In the interim, a series of mitigation measures has been constructed to protect the community to the extent possible, but the community is not safe. Currently, the only way to leave the village is by plane or boat. Both of these means of escape would be dangerous, if not impossible, during a large ocean storm. Compounding the situation is the fact that the community is in a remote area, making it difficult if not impossible for outside help to reach the community in time for a successful rescue mission. The community must have a way to safely evacuate without relying on outside help. An evacuation road meets this need. Besides being necessary to ensure the safety of our residents, this project may prevent the need for costly emergency assistance in the future.
The state has recently funded the construction of a new school on high ground near Kisimigiuktuk Hill, which is approximately eight miles inland from the existing community. There is currently no road access to the new school site. The proposed road will serve as both an evacuation road and as an access road to the new school from the village. Funding for this project is time sensitive: Kivalina has had three emergency evacuations in the past five years, two to the school for local sheltering and one out of the village entirely.
Kobuk and Shungnak Heavy Equipment
The communities of Shungnak and Kobuk are in need of new heavy equipment. The existing heavy equipment is old and requires frequent and costly repairs and maintenance. The equipment is used in the community to assist with many activities that benefit the residents from the maintenance of roads, snow removal, water and sewer system repair and maintenance, hauling solid waste to the landfill, dump maintenance, and on other capital improvement projects within the community. The heavy equipment helps the community take care of its basic needs without assistance from others. Additionally, in remote areas of the state it is important to keep access to airports and roads open year round since this is often the only access to medical care and emergency relief when it is needed. The existing equipment has been used beyond its useful life and is costly to maintain. The funding will provide for the purchase of heavy equipment for both communities.