Mertarvik to get airport by 2022

The road leading to the rock quarry on Nelson Island doubles as an airstrip for non-commercial flights in Mertarvik. A commercial airport is scheduled to be built by 2022. July 16, 2020 in Mertarvik, Alaska. (Katie Basile/KYUK)

Newtok residents are one step closer to having an airport in the new village of Mertarvik, the replacement site for a community that is being forced out by flooding and erosion linked to climate change.

On April 1, the Federal Aviation Administration announced in a press release that the Newtok airport project would receive $21.1 million in funding.

Newtok residents first began moving over to Mertarvik in 2019. Located nine miles from Newtok, Mertarvik is built on more solid ground. Over 130 people, or about a third of the village, have already moved there. Now a construction company has won the bid to build an airport.

But for over a year, Mertarvik has survived without a commercial airport. That has meant spotty access to groceries and dangerous delays accessing medical care.

In September 2020, the Newtok Native Corporation sold land to the Alaska Department of Transportation to build a new airport after resolving a dispute over the terms of the deal.

DOT spokesperson Shannon McCarthy said in an email that Cruz Construction won the bid for the airport project for $22.7 million. McCarthy said that the DOT and Cruz Construction will meet with the community to discuss the project schedule and potential job opportunities. She said that construction will begin this summer, and that the airport in Mertarvik is expected to open to air traffic in the fall of 2022.

KYUK - Bethel

KYUK is our partner station in Bethel. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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