Alaskan Island Village Boasts New Planeless Airport and Boatless Harbor. Guess Who Paid?


The Aleutian Island village of Akutan, Alaska (pop. 75) has garnered some national attention for its airport, a facility that cost $75.5 million and is accessible only by hovercraft. Which is badass, but not practical. About three-quarters of the cost of the airport was covered by federal funds.

To be fair, the area is home to a seafood processing plant that attracts 1,000 seasonal workers. But after Peninsula Airways canceled the only scheduled air or mail service last month there are no regular flights, though occasional charter flights do come in and out. Renovations made it impossible for the aircraft that previously served the island, a WWII-era amphibious plane, to take off.

Not satisfied with just one major piece of useless transportation infrastructure, however, Akutan now boasts a non-functioning port as well:

For now, the harbor is mostly just a big hole in the ground. While the construction team has finished its work, there's still no electricity, no running water, and no floats. There's also no road from the village, which is two miles away, so the only way to access the boat harbor is by boat. That means the harbor is cut off from the village's grocery store, post office and fuel dock. Steve Boardman is head of the Army Corps of Engineers' civil projects division. He says transportation situation is unusual.

"Yes. It's not normal. And it has prevented the construction of harbors in the past, when that supporting infrastructure is not there."

Akutan port

Raise your hand if you're surprised by this piece of the puzzle:

Boardman adds that it helped that the project was 'shovel-ready' when $29 million of federal stimulus money became available in 2009.

A road to the port, which "is being contemplated," would require blasting through the cliffs around the Akutan Bay, at a cost of about $11 million per mile.

And in case you're wondering where Akutan is, it's here:


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  1. Yaaaaaaaaay, more waste.

    And it seems like Eric Holder is back for more due process. I know… it’s a tangent, but really I need to drum up some chatter this morning as work is boring as shit right now.

    1. 75 million to make a hovercraft port. A hovercraft just needs a smooth patch of pavement to park, maybe 2 tennis courts in size? Should cost about as much as building a concrete boat launch.

  2. But if they didn’t build a useless port or useless airport, the economy would TANK!

    1. On the brightside, the plans for a rocket launchpad were shelved.

  3. “Boardman adds that it helped that the project was ‘shovel-ready’ when $29 million of federal stimulus money became available in 2009.”

    Retards think this is the solution to our economic problems.

    Meanwhile in the real world…

    “U.S. companies are scaling back investment plans at the fastest pace since the recession, signaling more trouble for the economic recovery.

    Half of the nation’s 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders have announced plans to curtail capital expenditures this year or next.”…..25394.html

    And, of course, if companies continue to slash their capex budgets–and neither Obama, the Democrats in the Senate or John Boehner paid any kind of political price for the last round of stimulus–then why the hell wouldn’t they do another round of stimulus this time?

    It worked last time!

    …if by “worked” you mean got them reelected.

  4. related: the Japanese thought we were going to invade the homeland through the chain of Aleutian Islands. So much so that as part of the Midway campaign, they attacked Dutch Harbor, expecting to find a huge military presence there. Whoops!

    And another interesting note: A Zero was shot down during that raid and crash landed. We were able to salvage the plane and fly it, revealing the weaknesses. Whoops!

    1. The Midway attack itself turned out to be a bit of an oops.

      1. I love the story about Lieutenant Commander C. Wade McClusky, Jr. and his squadron of dive bombers who kinda got lost looking for something to shoot at and then found the Japanese destroyer Arashi heading back to the Japanese Carrier fleet. And, as fortune would have it, the Japanese were in the process of refueling and reloading their aircraft at the time meaning the carriers decks were loaded with fuel and ordnance. McClusky’s squadron successfully crippled three Japanese Carriers -S?ry?, Kaga, and Akagi,- and in the opinion of Admiral Chester Nimitz, “decided the fate of our carrier task force and our forces at Midway.”

        1. I saw a pretty good documentary about the Battle of Midway recently. That was definitely an awesome bit of luck.

        2. I’ve read that in trying to wargame Midway, the U.S. always loses. It was a matter of luck – and some tactical decisions – that let us win.

          1. The story of McClusky’s squadron is pretty damn lucky. They just happened to have caught Arashi heading back to the Japanese fleet because they actually missed the initial air attack. Had they ended up where they were supposed to be they would have joined the other squadrons in a pretty devastating early defeat. Instead the mistake turned out to be easily one of the biggest turning points in the war. Had they not crippled the Japanese fleet Yamamoto could have achieved his goal of eliminating the US Pacific carrier fleet at Midway which would have allowed the Japanese to control the Pacific. Pretty amazing that this is not how it turned out, when you look at it in hindsight.

            1. A number of lucky happenstance lead to McClusky being there at that moment, but it was a great decision by McClusky not to attack the destroyer, but to follow it.

              That decision created the victory at Midway, which likely shortened the war by a least a year.

    2. And another interesting note: A Zero was shot down during that raid and crash landed. We were able to salvage the plane and fly it, revealing the weaknesses.

      It had flipped over on marshy ground, drowning the pilot who was still alive. The plane was more or less intact, only requiring some re-strenghtening of the fuselage, repairing of the landing gear and a new propeler, which happened to be the same as the Hamilton Standard.

      The repaired airplane went on to fly several comparison flights against the contemporary American fighters of the day (this was 1942), such as: The Bell P-39C Airacobra, the Curtiss P-40E Warhawk, the Lockheed P-38E Lightning, the Vought F4U-1 Corsair, the Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat and the North American P-51A Mustang (with the earlier GM-Allison engine). The tests performed included takeoff performance, acceleration and rate of climb, where the Zero performed admirably especially when compared to the more ponderous P-39 and Wildcat. The Corsair, Lightning and Mustang all showed greater acceleration than the Zero at level flight but the Zero was able to get off the runway quicker, gain altitude faster and outpace the heavier countreparts while climbing for altitude.

      1. The tests also showed some very important deficiencies of the Zero, especially the fact that its rate of roll was slower above 250 MPH than what the American planes could achieve, because the ailerons had a much greater surface area and had no mechanical or hydraulic assistance. It could also not dive as fast as the heavier and more powerful American planes. This dictated a new set of tactics that could help defeat the Zero, but also made it clear that the plane was still a very dangerous opponent in a slow speed dogfight.

        1. Not to mention the complete lack of armor around the pilot.

    3. The battle on Attu Island was a bitch.

  5. Alaskan Island Village Boasts New Planeless Airport and Boatless Harbor. Guess Who Paid?

    Tonyesque Keynesian blathermouth: “But… Aggregate Demand! Jobz! Aggregate Demand! Jobz! Aggregate Demand! Jobz! Aggregate….”

  6. Alaska is one of those places where libertarians can really hammer home their differences with conservatives.

  7. To be fair, there is no more “shovel ready” project than digging a big hole.

  8. For now, the harbor is mostly just a big hole in the ground … it helped that the project was ‘shovel-ready’ when $29 million of federal stimulus money became available in 2009.

    Quick, now go pay someone else to fill it back in! Pauly Krugnuts needs MOAR STIMULUS!!!111!!!!!11!! to finish.

    1. Thread winner!

  9. Akutan features prominently in a few episodes of Deadliest Catch. I wonder what Sig thinks of this boondoggle?

    1. I thought about that, too.

      If the use someday justifies the cost, the it would have been justified using just private money, too.

      And if, for some reason, private developers couldn’t develop on that land because it was federally owned, then the solution wasn’t to use taxpayer funds. It was to privatize the land.

    2. Deadliest Catch is the best show on television.

      Gold Rush is pretty good, too.

      I’m convinced that Jungle Gold show is fake–it’s all actors. Sort of like Bootleggers is mostly fake–except for the old documentary footage.

  10. Wasn’t the crack journalist who was sent to Alaska about then too
    busy peering through Sarah Palin’s bedroom window to go find a story like this?

  11. Silver lining: it’s a beautiful harbor. Good protection.

  12. As someone who lives in the middle of nowhere, that is located in the middle of nowhere.

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