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Science and Environment

Napaimute Recognized For Work On Ice Road

Oscar Samuelson drives the Napaimute plow truck "Tumlista, The One Who Makes a Trail."
Mark Leary
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Native Village of Napaimute

They do it every winter, but it was this summer when their work on the Kuskokwim Ice Road was recognized by Alaska lawmakers and the Calista Corporation. Mark Leary, with the Napaimute Transportation Department, said that the recognition comes after a tough winter that stretched their efforts beyond the budget they had carefully constructed.

“What we didn’t anticipate was the record amount of snow,” said Leary. “It blew our budget out of the water. Then we had to start reaching out again. A lot of villages couldn’t contribute any more. The region was getting tapped out.”

Much of the funding for the ice road comes from each village on the route. Leary said that the heavy snow last winter was too much. Villages couldn’t come up with extra money, so it was necessary to find funding elsewhere to cover the additional costs. The Denali Commission helped, as did the state.

“That was the recognition we’ve been looking from the state that yeah, Kuskokwim Ice Road is a legitimate winter transportation network. And the state was finally willing to contribute to it,” said Leary.

The Calista Corporation gave the Raymond C. Christiansen Business of the Year Award to the Napaimute Transportation Department. That provided a bit of money, but not anywhere near the funds needed to keep the ice road operational next winter.