Kotzebue is on the Baldwin Peninsula in Kotzebue Sound, on a 3-mile-long spit, which ranges in width from 1,100 to 3,600 feet. It is located near the discharges of the Kobuk, Noatak, and Selawik Rivers, 549 air miles northwest of Anchorage and 26 miles above the Arctic Circle. Kotzebue Recording District and is located in the transitional climate zone, which is characterized by long, cold winters and cool summers. The average low temperature during January is -12 °F. Snowfall averages 40 inches, with total precipitation of 9 inches per year. Kotzebue Sound is ice-free from early July until early October.
This site has been occupied by Inupiat for at least 600 years. “Kikiktagruk” was the hub of ancient Arctic trading routes long before European contact, due to its coastal location near a number of rivers. The German Lt. Otto Von Kotzebue “discovered” Kotzebue Sound in 1818 for Russia. The community was named after the Kotzebue Sound in 1899 when a post office was established. Since the turn of the century, expansion of economic activities and services in the area have enabled Kotzebue to develop relatively rapidly. The city was formed in 1958. A U.S. Air Force base and White Alice Communications System were later constructed.
The residents of Kotzebue are primarily Inupiat, and subsistence activities are an integral part of the lifestyle. Each summer, the North Tent City fish camp is set up to dry and smoke the season’s catch. In 2009, Kotzebue became a “wet” community, allowing the sale, import, and possession of alcohol.
Kotzebue is the service and transportation center for all villages in the northwest region. It has a healthy cash economy, a growing private sector, and a stable public sector. Because of its location at the confluence of three river drainages, Kotzebue is the transfer point between ocean and inland shipping. It is also the air transport center for the region. Activities related to oil and minerals exploration and development have contributed to the economy. The majority of income is directly or indirectly related to government employment, such as the school district, Maniilaq Association, the city, and the borough. The Teck Alaska Red Dog Mine is a significant regional employer. Commercial fishing for chum salmon provides some seasonal employment. 112 residents hold commercial fishing permits. Most residents rely on subsistence to supplement income.
Water is supplied by the 150-million-gallon Vortac Reservoir, located one and a half miles from the city. Water is treated and stored in a 1.5-million-gallon tank. Water is heated with a waste heat recovery system at the electric plant and distributed in circulating mains. Piped sewage is treated in a 32-acre zero discharge facultative lagoon west of the airport. Around 80% of homes are fully plumbed, and 521 homes are served by the city system. A transfer station and Class 2 permitted landfill with balefill is available. Recycling and hazardous waste disposal are provided. Kotzebue uses ten 50 kilowatt wind turbines to supplement electricity.
Borough Assembly Members
Nasruuk Carl Weisner
Seat K, Assembly President
P.O. Box 591 Kotzebue, AK 99752
Seat G, Assembly Vice President
P.O. Box 1197 Kotzebue, AK 99752
Walter G. Sampson
P.O. Box 1088 Kotzebue, AK 99752
P.O. Box 16 Kotzebue, AK 99752
P.O. Box 1193 Kotzebue, AK 99752