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Newtok Planning Group

Mertarvik Airport

Mertarvik Airport Study Reports

Construction of an airport at Mertarvik is critical, as the area has no roads connecting it to other communities. Once relocated to Mertarvik, the Newtok community will rely heavily on air transportation for travel, movement of supplies, and emergency medical evacuations.

In 2007, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT/PF) initiated an airport relocation reconnaissance study. In December 2009, a follow-up study was commissioned for site selection and development of an Airport Layout Plan (ALP).  The ALP, based on Alternative 1/1A (discussed below) was completed in 2014.  In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conditionally approved the ALP, subject to the condition that the proposed landfill and sewage lagoon maintain a minimum separation requirement of 5,000 feet from the Newtok (Mertarvik) Airport.

The ALP serves as a critical planning tool that depicts both existing facilities and planned development for an airport. Sponsors of airport development carried out at federally obligated airports must accomplish the improvement in accordance with an FAA-approved ALP.   By definition, the ALP is a plan for a specific airport that shows:

  • Boundaries and proposed additions to all areas owned or controlled by the sponsor for airport purposes
  • The location and nature of existing and proposed airport facilities and structures
  • The location on the airport of existing and proposed non-aviation areas and improvements thereon.

A current FAA-approved ALP is a prerequisite for issuance of a grant for airport development.

Airport Site Selection

Figure 1, below, shows the alternatives considered for an airport at Mertarvik.

Click figure to download full-size PDF file

Figure 1: Runway alternatives.  Source: DOT/PF.  Click figure to download full-size PDF file.

The Newtok Airport Relocation Reconnaissance Study (PDC Inc. Engineers, March 2008) established the purpose and need, the facility requirements, and the potential locations for the airport. Six initial alternative airport locations were developed through map studies and input provided by local residents and pilots. Additional information provided by the public and pilots resulted in the elimination of three of those sites from further consideration. The remaining three alternatives (Alternatives 1, 3, and 4) were then compared based on the following criteria:

  • Range of orientation for wind coverage, based on wind data from nearby communities and pilot reports
  • Proximity to the new community; community planning efforts after the reconnaissance study was completed resulted in a change in the community site
  • Airspace penetrations
  • Environmental considerations
  • Topography and soils (based on limited mapping)
  • Site development and maintenance costs
  • Proximity to material sources and the barge landing

The Mertarvik Airport Site Selection Study was completed in December 2012. This study determined that Alternative 1/1A would be the easiest to access and the most cost-effective to construct, operate, and maintain. This airport is also closest to the community, which during inclement weather is a very important factor. While nearby, the airport site is far enough away to allow for community expansion well beyond the boundaries shown for development.

Additional engineering analysis determined that an “optimized” single-runway (see Figure 2, below) oriented at 138° would be the preferred build alternative. At 100 feet wide and within a 300-foot safety area, this runway would provide sufficient wind coverage without the need for an additional crosswind runway. Staged construction of Alternative 1.1 would allow for operation and use of the airstrip while it is gradually expanded to its ultimate size of 4,000 feet by 100 feet. .

Click figure to download full-size PDF file

Figure 2: Alternative 1.1.  Source: DOT/PF. Click figure to download full-size PDF file.

For more information contact:

Sally Russell Cox

Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1640
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 269-4588 FAX: (907) 269-4066