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Operation Alaskan Road

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Journal article

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Just 15 miles south of Ketchikan, Alaska, in a remote region of the Inside Passage, lies a pristine island rain forest known as Annette Island. It was founded by Anglican missionary William Duncan and 800 Tsimshian Indians in 1887, and in 1891, by Congressional Act, it became the Annette Island Reservation. In 1916, all waters and inlets within 3,000 feet of the island s shoreline were included. Today, Annette Island and its surrounding islands comprise the only Indian reservation in Alaska. Metlakatla, with 1,800 residents, is the only inhabited village on the 136-square-mile island. During World War II, a large airfield was built on the island as part of a defense network for the Canadian and American forces. After the war, the airfield became a United States Coast Guard search-and-rescue base, as well as a weather station for the United States Weather Bureau. For a brief period, the Federal Aviation Administration based personnel on-site. Until recently, it was the largest airfield in Alaska and continued to serve the area commercially until the 1970s. With the completion of the new Ketchikan Airport on Gravina Island, and the transfer of the Coast Guard Station to Sitka in 1977, Annette Field officially closed. Operation Alaskan Road is the fulfillment of a 50-year-old promise made to the Metlakatla Indian Community after World War II--by the Alaska Road Commission and the United States Army Corps of Engineers--to build a road connecting their ocean side city to Alaska s Inside Passage. This would allow year-round ferry service to Ketchikan, Alaska s fourth largest city. The economy of Metlakatla is poor because of limited mobility to jobs and trade centers in Ketchikan, and the unemployment rate hovers near 80 percent.

Subject Categories:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Surface Transportation and Equipment

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