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Discovery of human remains stops Kotzebue airport project

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Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 6:13 pm

KOTZEBUE — The discovery of human remains has temporarily shut down a $30 million project at Kotzebue Airport.

Part of a human hipbone was discovered Sunday as workers dug a trench for a new sewer line adjacent to the airport. Archaeologists on site said the bone was "pretty old," said Mark Figley, project engineer for the Alaska Department of Transportation.

The find wasn't unexpected, as the shoreline has been inhabited for thousands of years, he said.

"Everybody discussed this ahead of time — what do we do if we find something," Figley said.

In this case, archaeologists determined the area the remains were found had been disturbed before. No other bones or artifacts were discovered. Figley said he expects work to resume soon.

When completed by the target date of Nov. 30, the project will lengthen the runway's safety areas to the east and west, reroute a road and sewer line around the western part of the runway and move a channel in the lagoon to the east.

The runway, which serves this Northwest Alaska hub community of 2,300 residents, will have a total of 5,900 feet for landing planes and 6,300 feet for takeoffs.

The remains will be reburied at Kotzebue Hillside Cemetery with consultation from the Native Village of Kotzebue, said Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey.

Contact Julie Stricker at 459-7532. Staff writer Sam Friedman contributed to this report.

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