Angoon, the largest Southeast Alaska community without an airport, may soon get one

Angoon, pictured here in 2017, is home to about 450 people. Currently, the town relies on a seaplane base for air travel. (KCAW photo)

Angoon is the largest town in Southeast Alaska without an airport. But that is changing — the Alaska Department of Transportation is moving ahead with plans to construct a 3,300-foot runway south of town. The airport is still a few years out, but a public information session last week last week provided updates on the project and allowed residents to get their questions answered.

The idea of building an airport in Angoon has been in the works for years, but mayor Josh Bowen says planning sped up recently. A landing strip is now on the not-too-distant horizon, with construction expected to start in 2021.

“In the short, almost two years that I’ve been with the city, it seems to me like it’s moving pretty dang fast,” Bowen said.

Currently, the town’s air traffic is limited to float planes. And night landings are prohibited at the Angoon Seaplane Base for safety reasons. 

The DOT plan calls for a 3,300 foot runway just south of town, with the potential for future extensions. It will be able to accommodate small passenger and medevac planes. And it will have lights to facilitate night landings. 

In addition to making Angoon more accessible, Bowen says the town’s relatively calm weather will allow the airport to serve as a safe harbor for regional air traffic. 

“Not only is it just going to be a good thing for the town but I think it’s gonna be a good thing for everyone that’s flying by here,” he said. “You know because if you need to get out of the weather, you’re not able to make it over to Juneau or whatever, they can just stop in Angoon.” 

DOT spokesperson Sam Dapcevich said the new airport is expected to cost around $45 million. The Federal Aviation Administration will reimburse nearly the entire cost, with the state contributing a small match. 

Once the project is complete, the DOT will contract out maintenance and operation responsibilities. 

The acceleration of the plan comes as Angoon is grappling with the loss of ferry service. The airport was in the works long before the current ferry debacle, but Bowen says it’s made him and others on the city council think hard about alternative transit strategies. 

“Especially with the decrease in service from the ferry, we need to look at all options we have for transportation. And you know this airport is gonna be a big help,” he said.

The DOT plans to break ground in 2021, and complete the project in about three years.

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