Ice roads are unique transportation links moving goods & services in rural Alaska
(Anchorage, Alaska) – Maintenance for a vital transportation link along the Kuskokwim River will be fully funded under Governor Michael Dunleavy’s FY23 budget. Funds for the Dick Nash Memorial ice road will help tribal transportation departments maintain the frozen Kuskokwim for travel in the 2022/2023 winter.
“I had the opportunity to travel the Kuskokwim Ice Road for the first time on a recent visit to the Villages of Napakiak and Napaskiak,” said Governor Dunleavy. “All those hundreds of miles of drivable ice are truly an Alaskan feat. I was impressed by the job the crew from the Village of Napaimute was doing and I heard from many residents about the importance of the road during the winter months for health, safety, commerce, and recreation. I’m glad we have identified funding to cover this expense from existing authorities.”
The Kuskokwim ice road can be up to 300 miles long and serves over 17 villages. The Village of Napaimute’s ice road crew coordinates the majority of maintenance to keep the road open and safe for travel. Ice roads help rural communities move goods and services during winter months, and are cost effective for families. They are a safe alternative when poor weather prevents airplanes from flying. Most recently, ice roads have been used to respond to medical emergencies and as an efficient way to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
“The State of Alaska funding the Kuskokwim Ice Road is a vital infrastructure investment in the Yukon Kuskokwim Region, creating local jobs,” said Stephen Maxie Jr. Interim Speaker of the Yukon Kuskokwim Regional Tribal Government. “The River Road provides important access to health care and emergency services, education and workforce development, youth sports, and friends and family. It also helps lower staggeringly high food costs at a time when food security needs and inflation have dramatically increased. Thank you, Governor Dunleavy and Commissioner Anderson, for investing in rural Alaska.”
Maintaining ice roads goes beyond plowing and placing reflectors. The Napaimute ice road crew have developed a cell phone application to measure ice thickness. This innovative technology integrates ice penetrating radar, with traditional Native knowledge, and local observations, into an easy-to-access, cell phone format. Bethel Search and Rescue coordinates with the Napaimute crew during for community reports on ice road conditions as well as emergency operations.
This winter, half of the Ice Road maintenance has been covered through contributions from community stakeholders, as requested by Gov. Dunleavy. With delivered heating oil and diesel costs over $6 per gallon in the region, and the state in a surplus based in part on these high oil prices, Governor Dunleavy believes it is only right to provide community relief where possible. The proposed FY23 budget, as in prior years, includes $185,000 for Kuskokwim Ice Road maintenance. DOT&PF will fully cover the remainder of the costs through the federal surface transportation infrastructure program to maintain the road.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 237 airports, 10 ferries serving 35 communities along 3,500 of marine miles, over 5,600 miles of highway and 776 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska. The mission of the department is to “Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.”