Agency to update Noatak residents on airport relocation

Noatak residents can learn about the progress of the airport relocation and share their thoughts on it next week.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will hold an open house on Jan. 25 in Noatak to share the history, the current status and the next steps for the Noatak Airport Relocation project. The project includes the construction of a new runway, taxiway, snow removal equipment building and a new road so that people can get to and from the new airport when it opens.


“We would like to get input from the community on the current design and any questions about the project,” spokesperson for the department John Perreault said.

Information presented at the open house should help community members to review the draft environmental analysis expected to come out soon, Perreault said. The department also wants to find community representatives who are who can help coordinate the project.

The Noatak Airport Relocation project started in 2006 in response to river erosion threatening the existing airport.

“The river has continued to erode the bank toward the runway,” Perreault said. “Based on imagery data from June 2022, the river was approximately 260 feet away from the edge of the runway embankment.”

According to a December 2022 DOT&PF hydrologist’s report, at the current rate of erosion, the existing runway would be impacted in 10 to 20 years, he said.

“Significant flood events may accelerate that timeframe, and it is important to complete the new airport before the current airport operations are impacted by erosion,” he added.

The estimated time of completion of the new airport is set as 2027.

“I just hope that the channel changes from in front of town back to the channel that’s away from town,” Noatak resident Jeff Luther said, “so if any delays happen on the new airport, we will have that much less erosion at breakup and high water seasons.”

Besides erosion, the current airport is located too close to the village, which can cause dust, and too close to the landfill, which creates a wildfire hazard, Perreault said. Plus, the lighting at the current airport is too old and needs to be replaced, Perreault said.

Based on Federal Aviation Administration standards, the old runway is too small for aircraft that regularly use the Noatak Airport. The new runway will be 4,000 by 75 feet in size.

Airport relocations require significantly more preliminary studies than typical projects, and this is why the department is still in the planning stages of its relocation.

Identifying materials sources in a community off the road and barge system, finding a suitable location for the new airport, identifying and obtaining environmental agency consultations are some of the challenges with this project Perreault noted.

“This project has taken longer than our typical projects,” he said.

In the summer of 2022, the department completed the consultations required for the draft Environmental Assessment and now is working with FAA to finalize the draft EA for public release later this winter.

Once public and agency comments are received on the draft EA, the department will prepare the Final EA and then will begin right-of-way acquisition for the new airport. The final design will be completed at the same time.

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.