The Arctic Sounder

North Slope officials discuss recent emergency response and infrastructure plans

North Slope Borough officials this month discussed their recent emergency response in searching for a missing hunter and addressing the outages in Point Hope. They also spoke about their plans for improving local infrastructure, such as building the seawall in Utqiagvik.

Search and Rescue

Borough Mayor Josiah Patkotak presented his monthly report during the assembly meeting. In it, he shared recent actions the borough has taken to search for a hunter who went missing last month.

The missing person, not identified by officials, left Wainwright on the morning of Dec. 15 on a hunting trip and was reported overdue that night, according to a statement from the North Slope Borough. Multiple search crews from Wainwright, Atqasuk, Utqiaġvik and Point Lay have searched for the hunter since then, Patkotak said.

“North Slope Borough Search and Rescue conducted approximately 48 hours of aerial search with the S92 and approximately 5 hours with the King Air, in addition to logistical and transportation flights for a drone operator, underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle operator, dive team and volunteers,” Patkotak said in the report.

The borough requested help with the search from other agencies. The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center conducted cell phone forensics, and the U.S. Coast Guard did two large search grids covering the majority of the search area with their C-130 plane.

“At this time, the hunter has not been located or any of his equipment,” Patkotak said.

In December, the borough Search and Rescue coordinators traveled to Anaktuvuk Pass to meet with volunteers, as well as go over equipment needs and the status of personal locator beacons, Patkotak said. In January, a co-presentation between North Slope Search and Rescue and the U.S. Coast Guard will take place at the rural resiliency workshop in Utqiagvik.


To improve the efficiency of search and rescue services as well as the ability to safely and quickly transport residents experiencing medical emergencies, the borough discussed purchasing two helicopters. Currently, airborne rescue missions and emergency services are conducted with a Bell 412 plane that is 35 years old.

Housing developments

When a power outage left half of the village of Point Hope without electricity, heat and water for about a day last month, the borough sent out honey buckets and water containers to the village. They also addressed the issues residents experienced in their homes after the outage.

“Housing Department recorded a total of 103 General Housing Requests during the month of December,” Patkotak said.

The borough Housing Department also has made progress on the 10-plex in Anaktuvuk Pass, the report said.

“The AKP 10-plex had trusses and beams installed in the last two units and the whole building is almost enclosed,” Patkotak said. “NSB Housing staff will be enclosing the last two units and UIC will continue with the interior framing.”

Utqiagvik seawall

Among the long-awaited borough infrastructure projects is the revetment in Utqiagvik aimed at protecting the village from storm waves and erosion.

[Along Utqiaġvik’s eroding coast, hope that a seawall can help keep the community safe]

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been designing a 5-mile-long rock revetment along the coast and raising a road that follows the city’s northeast coast. The design for the first 0.75 miles of revetment was nearly complete in 2022.

Last month, the Corps advertised the request for proposals for the Barrow Coastal Erosion Seawall, with the deadline on Jan. 26.

“Assuming this timeline holds,” Patkotak said, “we should see materials delivered this barge season.”

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.