Published on October 12, 2010 by John
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Current Population: 564 (2009 DCCED Certified Population)
Incorporation Type: 1st Class City
Borough Located In: Unorganized
Taxes: Sales: 3%, Property: None, Special: None
National Flood Insurance Program Participant: Yes
Location and Climate
Galena is located on the north bank of the Yukon River, 45 miles east of Nulato and 270 air miles west of Fairbanks. It lies northeast of the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge. The community lies at approximately 64.733330° North Latitude and -156.927500° West Longitude. (Sec. 06, T009S, R010E, Kateel River Meridian). Galena is located in the Nulato Recording District. The area encompasses 17.9 sq. miles of land and 6.1 sq. miles of water. The area experiences a cold, continental climate with extreme temperature differences. The average daily high temperature during July is in the low 70s; the average daily low temperature during January ranges from 10 to below 0 °F. Sustained temperatures of -40 °F are common during winter. Extreme temperatures have been measured from -64 to 92 °F. Annual precipitation averages 12.7 inches, with 60 inches of snowfall. The river is ice-free from mid-May through mid-October.
History, Culture and Demographics
The area’s Koyukon Athabascans had spring, summer, fall, and winter camps and moved as the wild game migrated. In the summer, many families would float on rafts to the Yukon to fish for salmon. There were 12 summer fish camps located on the Yukon River between the Koyukuk River and the Nowitna River. Galena was established in 1918 near an old Athabascan fish camp called Henry’s Point. It became a supply and trans-shipment point for nearby lead ore mines. In 1920, Athabascans living 14 miles upriver at Louden began moving to Galena to sell wood to steamboats and to work hauling freight for the mines. A school was established in the mid-1920s, and a post office opened in 1932. The Galena Air Field was constructed in World War II. In 1945, the community suffered a major flood. During the 1950s, military facilities at the Galena and Campion Air Force Stations and airport and road developments sparked growth in the community. Due to another severe flood in 1971, a new community site was developed at Alexander Lake, about 1.5 miles east of the original townsite. City offices, the health clinic, schools, a washeteria, a store, and more than 150 homes were constructed at “New Town,” and a city government was formed. The Air Force Station was closed in 1993, and the facilities are currently being used by the Galena School District as a boarding school. The base facilities are maintained under contract by the Chugach Development Corporation.
A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community — the Galena Village (aka Louden Village). The population of the community consists of 67.4% Alaska Native or part Native. The population is mixed Athabascan and non-Native, and traditional festivals attract visitors from other river villages. The establishment of the Galena and Campion Air Force Bases in the 1950s brought growth and change to Galena. Many of Galena’s residents were originally from Louden or are descendants of Louden inhabitants. Subsistence food sources include salmon, whitefish, moose, and berries. During the 2000 U.S. Census, total housing units numbered 259, and vacant housing units numbered 43. Vacant housing units used only seasonally numbered 18. U.S. Census data for Year 2000 showed 334 residents as employed. The unemployment rate at that time was 8.74 percent, although 32.53 percent of all adults were not in the work force. The median household income was $61,125, per capita income was $22,143, and 10.16 percent of residents were living below the poverty level.
Facilities, Utilities, Schools and Health Care
Water is derived from wells and is treated. Twenty-eight residences and the school are connected to a piped water and sewer system. One-hundred-ten households use a flush/haul system. Twenty households use honeybuckets, and others have individual septic tanks. Refuse collection and a landfill are provided by the city. The city began operating the landfill, located on the former Campion AFS grounds, in 1997. There is a 200,000 gallon reservoir and a community leach field. Electricity is provided by City of Galena. There are 4 schools located in the community, attended by 3,892 students. Local hospitals or health clinics include Edgar Nollner Health Center; Galena Public Health Office. The clinic is a qualified Emergency Care Center. X-Ray, Laboratory, Dental, Dental X-Ray, and Dark Room are available. Galena is an isolated town/Sub-Regional Center, it is found in the Interior EMS Region. Emergency Services include limited highway, river and airport access. Emergency service is provided by volunteers and a health aide. 911 is fire only. Auxiliary health care is provided by Edgar Nollner Health Center (Galena) – TCC (Dispatch 907-656-1266; Office 656-1366).
Economy and Transportation
Galena serves as the transportation, government, and commercial center for the western Interior. Federal, state, city, school, and village government jobs dominate, but Galena has many other jobs in air transportation and retail businesses. In 2009, 14 residents held commercial fishing permits. Other seasonal employment, such as construction work and BLM firefighting, provide some income. The Illinois Creek gold mine, 50 miles southwest of Galena, closed in 2005.
Galena serves as a regional transport center for surrounding villages. The state-owned Edward G. Pitka, Sr., Airport provides the only year-round access. There is a paved, lighted 7,249′ long by 150′ wide runway and a 2,786′ long by 80′ wide gravel strip adjacent to the main runway. The rivers allow access by cargo barges from mid-May through mid-October. Pickups, cars, snowmachines, skiffs, and ATVs are used for local travel. During winter, the frozen rivers are used for travel to Ruby, Koyukuk, Kaltag, and Nulato. A winter trail is available to Huslia.