Alaska Airport's Stimulus Funding Attracts Attention

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With a recent focus on funds spent under President Obama's stimulus package, CNN Friday highlighted a $14.7 million runway project currently under way in Ouzinkie, Alaska, population 200. The town is located on a smaller island adjacent to Kodiak Island, south of mainland Alaska. According to CNN, the runway project was going to happen anyway, stimulus money or not. FAA funding had been slated for the project; the stimulus package just identified it as shovel-ready. But the project's attachment to the Obama administration's stimulus package may have added controversy. An opinion written by a contributor to the Alaska Standard detailed the project in a Dec. 31 article titled, "The Ouzinkie airstrip boondoggle." In it, author Mike Dingman writes, "this is just one example of Obama stimulus funds gone awry."

According to CNN, from a stimulus/jobs creation standpoint, only about 46 temporary jobs have been created by the project. But, CNN noted, more than 120 companies are benefiting from the trickle down, through materials and services. Ouzinkie currently operates a 2085 x 80-foot runway that (due in part to its size) ends just shy of Marmot Bay and is not available during weather conditions the area experiences through much of the year. That runway "does not meet minimum design standards for runway length, runway width, runway safety areas, and runway lighting and is being actively eroded by the ocean," according to the Alaska DOT. And it's close to a bird-seducing garbage dump, says CNN. When finished, the new larger runway will operate 1.7 miles away and supplement the existing runway, which will continue to operate when conditions permit.