Kawerak Inc. thanks Alaska’s Congressional Delegation for securing Diomede’s eligibility in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Essential Air Service Program, which will improve regular passenger and freight service to the community of Diomede. In partnership with Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young, Senator Sullivan secured an amendment for Diomede in the reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration programs, signed into law by President Trump on October 5, 2018.
Diomede was not eligible for the FAA’s Essential Air Service (EAS), as program requirements prevented Diomede’s inclusion. Amending the law was the only option for the community to recieve long term stability in passenger and freight air service. During periods where air service ceased to the island, as efforts were made to restore passenger and freight service, residents were left without essential goods and services, including access to health care, and the U.S. mail. Advocacy to improve air service to Diomede by including them in the EAS program began in 2014.
For years while Diomede was not eligible for the EAS program, the State of Alaska provided a funding match for alternative federal funding to keep air service going to Diomede as a temporary fix. Kawerak received the grant funding on behalf of Diomede, partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to procure air services, and contracted with air carriers to provide such services to Diomede. This ongoing effort was coupled with the proposal made by Kawerak to change the federal law that would make Diomede eligible for the EAS program in the future. With the signing of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018, including the key amendment regarding eligibility requirements for the EAS program, Diomede is now eligible for full EAS service from the United States Department of Transportation. This removes the necessity of having to request State matching funds each year in this current uncertain fiscal climate.
Located in the Bering Strait, Diomede is at the center of one of the largest marine mammal migrations through the Bering Strait, that has sustained the cultural wealth of the community over millennia. Diomede remains one of the Bering Strait region’s most remote and rural communities, receiving a once weekly weather dependent helicopter service. One passenger flight a week as the only means to move people, goods, and services on and off this remote island has been difficult and has resulted in significant hardships for those living on the island. The effort now will be to increase flights to a level that adequately addresses this community’s needs through the EAS program.
Kawerak appreciates the steadfast commitment and long term dedication of the Alaska Congressional Delegation as well as Senator Donny Olson, and Representative Neil Foster, who worked relentlessly to ensure State support while Diomede’s eligibility in the FAA program was established. Kawerak also thanks Governor Bill Walker for providing the State’s formal letter of support to amend the federal law so that Diomede would be eligible for the EAS program. Kawerak also appreciates the hard work of the United States Department of Transportation EAS Division, the State of Alaska Division of Statewide Aviation, and the State of Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs, and their partnership with Kawerak and Diomede over the years to ensure air service is in place for Diomede. Improving air services to Diomede will allow for the sustainability and continued economic growth of the community.
Photo credit Cheri McConnell