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A view of Deering from the air.

Deering Airport and Access Road Improvements

State/Federal Project Numbers: NFAPT00249/AIP TBA

The Deering Airport is owned by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and is located on the Seward Peninsula about 4,000 feet (ft.) inland from the south shore of Kotzebue Sound near the mouth of the Inmachuk River (Figure 1). It is approximately 55 miles south of Kotzebue, Alaska, 135 miles northeast of Nome, Alaska, and 35 miles south of the Arctic circle.

PROPOSED ACTION

The Proposed Action would address existing airport deficiencies, bring the Deering Airport into compliance with current Alaska Statewide Transportation Plan (ASTP), the Alaska Aviation System Plan (AASP), and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) design standards, and include the following elements (Figure 2):

Airport

  • Rehabilitate and resurface airport surfaces.
  • Repair runway embankments.
  • Apply dust palliative to airport ground traffic surfaces.
  • Replace the airport lighting system.
  • Improve or re-establish sufficient airport drainage.

Access Road

  • Construct a new airport access road, including several cross-drainage culverts and a new bridge over Smith Creek. Overhead utilities will be adjusted for proper clearance, which may include installation of two new power poles adjacent to the new roadway corridor.

PURPOSE AND NEED

The Deering Airport and existing access road are subject to seasonal flooding and the airport does not meet current FAA design standards.  Airport rehabilitation and new access road construction would ensure safe and reliable year-round air transportation for Deering.  The purpose of the project is to provide the community of Deering with safe and efficient airport access and address Deering Airport deficiencies that would bring the airport to current standards and meet criteria identified in the ASTP, the AASP, and current FAA design standards.

Existing Airport Deficiencies - The current aircraft fleet mix serving Deering consists primarily of the Cessna 208B, PA31 Piper Navajo, and Casa C212; with larger deliveries made by DC-6, and medevac services by Beechcraft 200.

The Deering Airport has two gravel surface runways designated as Runway (RW) 3-21 and RW 12-30. Snow removal operations have graded off most of the runway surfacing, resulting in rutting and ponding. Drifting snow collects west of the runway intersection, requiring an extensive annual snow removal effort and creating meltwater ponding against runway embankments in the spring. These elements keep airport maintenance costs high. Additionally, the airfield’s surface course and lighting system have exceeded their useful lifespan and need rehabilitation or replacement.

Inmachuk River Flooding - The Deering Airport is subject to flooding due to spring ice jams and strong periodic storm surges from Kotzebue Sound. In 2015 and 2016, ice jams at the Inmachuk River mouth submerged portions of the airport access road (Deering-Inmachuk Road which lies mostly off airport property) between the community and the airport and extending to the runway embankment (Figure 3). In 2016, these conditions caused the State of Alaska to declare a community disaster at Deering. Historical flood data does not indicate that floods have crested the airport surfaces.

Deering is off the road system, with the only year-round accessibility by air transportation, and barge service limited to summer months. While small boats, all-terrain vehicles, and snowmachines are used for personal inter-village and subsistence travel, Deering relies heavily on year-round air transportation for major commerce, supplies, fuel, access, and medical evacuation needs.