"For decades, Alaskans have numbed themselves to the shock and oddity of the state and federal expenditures that fall all around us. The latest example is the decision to spend $21 million on a new airfield for the tiny community of Takotna. Why does this sort of expenditure occur?
Actually, Takotna is the perfect location to explore possible reasons, but the details also offer little to bolster any logical defense of the spending.
The town, which officially has something near 50 residents, is a mining community by origin. It grew on the banks of the Takotna River early in the last century because it was the nearest steamboat-navigable water to the Ophir gold mining region. A road soon connected Takotna to Ophir. An airstrip followed, built for something less than $21 million.
Then the Cold War arrived, which is a central character in this tale. Facing off with the Russian bugaboo after World War II, the federal government dumped billions into Alaska. A chunk of that money almost hit Takotna but landed instead 10 miles to the east at the Tatalina Air Force Station, a White Alice communications site and airstrip perched on the side of a nearby mountain. Another chunk of Cold War money landed just 17 miles east of Takotna, in the form of a major runway and Federal Aviation Administration station in the town of McGrath.
McGrath, on the big, easily navigated Kuskokwim River, already had eclipsed Takotna’s role as the main supply center, but the arrival of the runway and FAA station sealed the deal. Takotna has slowly declined ever since."
Get the Story:
Editorial: Takotna’s tale
(The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 6/28)
Alaska to spend $21M on airport for village