Cordova, Alaska

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Cordova
City
Aerial view of Cordova, Alaska
Aerial view of Cordova, Alaska
Location of Cordova, Alaska
Location of Cordova, Alaska
Coordinates: 60°32′37″N 145°45′07″W / 60.54361°N 145.75194°W / 60.54361; -145.75194Coordinates: 60°32′37″N 145°45′07″W / 60.54361°N 145.75194°W / 60.54361; -145.75194
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Valdez-Cordova
Incorporated July 8, 1909[1]
Government
 • Mayor James "Jim" Kacsh[2][3]
Area
 • Total 75.6 sq mi (195.9 km2)
 • Land 61.4 sq mi (158.9 km2)
 • Water 14.3 sq mi (37 km2)
Elevation 82 ft (25 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 2,454
Time zone Alaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP code 99574
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-17410
GNIS feature ID 1421215
Website CityofCordova.net

Cordova /kɔrˈdvə/ is a small city located near the mouth of the Copper River in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Alaska, United States, at the head of Orca Inlet on the east side of Prince William Sound. The population was 2,239 at the 2010 census. Cordova was named Puerto Cordova by Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo in 1790.

History[edit]

1910 postcard of Cordova, Alaska.

In 1790 the inlet in front of the current Cordova townsite was named Puerto Cordova by Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo, after Spanish admiral Luis de Córdova y Córdova. The town of Cordova was named after it, although the inlet itself was later renamed the Orca Inlet.[4] Cordova proper was founded as a result of the discovery of high-grade copper ore at Kennecott, north of Cordova. A group of surveyors from Valdez laid out a town site and Michael James Heney purchased half the land for the terminus of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway after determining that Katalla was a poor harbor.[5] Heney and his crew held a brief ceremony to organize the town on March 26, 1906. A week later crews arrived to begin work on the railroad. The first lots in the new town site, which make up the heart of present-day Cordova, were sold at auction in May 1908. As the railroad grew, so did the town. Eventually schools, businesses, a hospital, and utilities were established. After the railroad was completed Cordova became the transportation hub for the ore coming out of Kennecott. In the years 1911 to 1938, more than 200 million tons of copper ore was transported through Cordova.[5]

The area around Cordova was historically home to the Eyak, with a population of Chugach to the west, and occasional visits from Ahtna and Tlingit people for trade or battle.[6] The last full-blooded Eyak died in 2008, but the native traditions and lifestyle still has an influence on the local culture. Today Cordova is populated with a mix of races, including Aleut Natives, Filipinos, and Caucasian European – North Americans.

Cordova was also once the home of a booming razor clam industry, and between 1916 and the late 1950s it was known as the "Razor Clam Capital of the World".[7] Commercial harvest in the area was as much as 3.5 million pounds. Returns began declining in the late 1950s, presumably due to overharvesting and a large die-off in 1958. The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake effectively destroyed the industry; in some areas, the ground was thrust up by as much as six feet, exposing the already depleted clam beds. There has been no commercial harvest in the area since 1988 with the exception of a brief harvest in 1993.[8]

In March 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground on Bligh Reef northwest of Cordova causing one of the most devastating environmental disasters in North America. The Exxon Valdez oil spill severely affected the area's salmon and herring populations leading to a recession of the local fishing-reliant economy as well as disrupting the general ecology of the area.[9] After many years of litigation, 450 million dollars were awarded for compensatory and punitive damages.

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Year Pop.   ±%  
1910 1,152 —    
1920 955 −17.1%
1930 980 +2.6%
1940 938 −4.3%
1950 1,165 +24.2%
1960 1,128 −3.2%
1970 1,164 +3.2%
1980 1,879 +61.4%
1990 2,110 +12.3%
2000 2,454 +16.3%
2010 2,239 −8.8%
Source: "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. 

As of the census of 2000,[10] there were 2,454 people, 958 households, and 597 families residing in the city. The population density was 40.0 per square mile (15.4/km²). There are 1,099 housing units at an average density of 17.9 per square mile (6.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 71.11% White, 23.6% Native American, 10.07% Asian, 0.41% Black or African American, 1.34% from other races, and 6.72% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.06% of the population.

There were 958 households out of which 36.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.5% were married couples living together, 8.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.6% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.17.

In the city the population was spread out with 28.0% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 32.8% from 25 to 44, 25.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 119.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 120.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $50,114, and the median income for a family was $65,625. Males had a median income of $40,444 versus $26,985 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,256. About 4.3% of families and 7.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.2% of those under the age of 18 and 6.2% of those 65 and older.

Geography[edit]

Cordova is located within the Chugach National Forest at 60°32′34.1″N 145°45′36.59″W / 60.542806°N 145.7601639°W / 60.542806; -145.7601639 (60.542805, −145.760164).[11] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 75.6 square miles (196 km2), of which, 61.4 square miles (159 km2) of it is land and 14.3 square miles (37 km2) of it is water. The total area is 18.87% water.

Climate[edit]

Cordova
Climate chart (explanation)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
6.7
 
31
15
 
 
5
 
34
17
 
 
4.1
 
38
20
 
 
4.3
 
44
27
 
 
5.8
 
51
35
 
 
3.7
 
57
42
 
 
7.3
 
60
46
 
 
9
 
61
44
 
 
14
 
55
40
 
 
13
 
47
32
 
 
9
 
38
24
 
 
7.6
 
32
18
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: Weatherbase[12] April 2010

Cordova has a very temperate climate with mild temperatures and large rainfall caused by orographic lift. Westerly winds coming off the north pacific ocean are forced upwards by the Chugach Mountains. This causes the air mass to cool and creates clouds and precipitation. The yearly average rainfall is 89 inches (226 cm) with 125 rainy days out of the year. Snowfall occurs mostly between December and March and an average of 127 inches (323 cm) falls yearly. Winter temperature reach lows of 15 °F (−9.5 °C) and the warmest summer temperatures are around 60 °F (15.5 °C).[12]

Most official climate data is recorded at the airport, which is 11 miles from town. Temperatures and precipitation vary drastically between town and the airport, with a notable and common doubling of precipitation in town as compared with the airport.

Economy[edit]

A view of the Cordova hillside from the boat harbor.

Commercial fishing is the main industry in Cordova. Half of all households in Cordova have at least one person involved in commercial fishing or processing. The fishing fleet mainly fishes the Prince William Sound and Copper River Delta area. There are various fisheries in the area, the most economically important of which is the salmon fishery. All pacific salmon species except for the Cherry salmon are caught. Fishermen use either a purse seine, drift gillnet, or set gillnet to catch the fish. All fisheries are regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The fisheries in Alaska have a limited entry permit system. The first fish processing plant near Cordova opened in 1887.[13] In 2009 there were 159 purse seine, 511 drift gilnet, and 27 set gillnet permits fished in the Prince William Sound and Copper River Delta area.[14] Wild fish stocks are augmented by hatcheries where fish are produced and released into the ocean and return as adults to be caught by the fishermen.

Arts and culture[edit]

Various festivals and celebrations take place throughout the year in Cordova. The Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival, hosted by the Cordova Chamber of Commerce takes place each year in early May. Millions of migrating shorebirds stop in the area to rest and feed before finishing their journey north. The most numerous species are the Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, and Dunlin. This is a popular time for avid and casual bird watchers to visit and view the amazing spectacle. Activities, workshops, and bird watching tours are held throughout the week.

The Cordova Iceworm Festival takes place each February and is an attempt to thwart the winter blues. Activities include a parade, talent show, and various competitions such as an oyster shucking contest, ping pong tournament, and a survival suit race.[15]

The Cordova Historical Museum has exhibits on the Copper River and Northwestern Railway, the local fishing industry, and Alaska Natives. They also host a jurried art show called "Fish Follies".[16]

The Ilanka Cultural Center museum features exhibits on Eyak, Alutiiq, Ahtna and Tlingit history and contemporary life – including artifacts, photographs, and oral histories. The 24-1/2-foot orca whale, Eyak, is one of only five fully rearticulated orca whale skeletons in the world. The Gift gallery and online store offer a wide variety of authentic crafts and merchandise – such as handcrafted seal and sea otter fur apparel, carved red and yellow cedar items, ravenstail woven purses, and beadwork from around the region. The works of many local artists are displayed at the museum. A beautiful selection of ivory, whale bone, birch bark and tufted caribou hair pieces is also available. The Cordova Ikumat Alutiiq group was formed in 1995, composed of youth and adults, and is open to anyone who wants to join; the group performs songs from the past as well as original pieces. The Ilanka Cultural Center offers traditional arts and skills still practiced including skin sewing, beadwork; mask, totem, and ivory carving; "putting up" fish and deer; berry-picking and jam-making; and subsistence and commercial fishing.(IlankaCenter.org)

Cordova Center[edit]

In late 2010, clearing the site and construction of a 33,929-square-foot (3,152.1 m2) community center, to be named the Cordova Center, began. The Cordova Center will host a new library, museum, auditorium, conference and meeting space, plus city hall offices expected to open by the Fall of 2012 for the residents of Cordova.[17]

Sports and recreation[edit]

Skiing is a popular activity in the winter. The surrounding Chugach Mountains provide excellent back country ski slopes. The Mt. Eyak ski area operates a single chair ski lift and rope tow. It is the oldest working ski lift in North America.[18] Points North Heli-Adventures Inc, a heliskiing company, also operates out of Cordova.

In the summer Kayaking in Prince William Sound is popular. The Sound has more tidewater glaciers than any other region in North America. 1,900,000 acres (7,700 km2) of the western Sound are designated as the Nellie Juan College Fjord Wilderness Study Area.[19]

Government[edit]

The City of Cordova has a Council-Manager type government. The City Council is the legislative body and has 7 seats. The council is presided over by the Mayor. The Mayor is the ceremonial head of city government and has the power to veto any ordinance.[20] The city council appoints the City Manager for an indefinite term (he may be removed at anytime by the council). The City Manager is head of the administrative branch of the city government. He executes all ordinances and laws and administers the government of the city.[21]

The city levies a property tax as well as a 6 percent sales tax.[22]

Education[edit]

Mt. Eccles elementary school is the only public primary education facility in Cordova and had an enrollment of 206 students in 2008. Public secondary education is served by a single combined junior and senior high school. The high school had an enrollment of 205 students in 2008. The Cordova School District has 26 employed teachers.[23] Post secondary education is provided by the Prince William Sound Community College, a community campus of University of Alaska Anchorage.

Media[edit]

Jennifer Gibbins, publisher and editor, independently ownes the only newspaper for the town called the Cordova Times, established in 1914. It is published weekly and distributed every Friday at a newsstand price of $4.00.[24]

There are three radio stations in the area. KLAM (1450 AM) began broadcasting in 1954 and generally plays classic rock, country, and news and talk shows.[25] KCDV (100.9 FM) started in 1997 and plays top hits, 80's, and 90's music. Both stations are owned by Bayview Communications Inc.[26] KCHU, based in Valdez operates a translator at 88.1 FM that serves Cordova public radio programming.[27]

The Cordova area is often featured in Ski Films by director Warren Miller.

Transportation[edit]

M/V Fairweather, sistership to the M/V Chenega which operates in Cordova

Despite being on the mainland, Cordova is only accessible via boat or aircraft, as there is no road connecting the town to any other town. It was previously accessible by railroad however the railway is no longer in use largely due to the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and the resulting destruction it caused to the Million Dollar Bridge. The longest road is the Copper River Highway which follows the old railbed of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway for 49.5 miles (79.7 km).[28] The first 11 miles (17.7 km) north of Cordova is paved and the rest is gravel.

Cars and trucks can be transported to Cordova by ferry. Regular ferry service is provided by the state owned, Alaska Marine Highway System to Valdez and Whittier with whistle stops (the ferry only stops if there are prior reservations) in Tatitlek and Chenega Bay. The M/V Aurora operates in Prince William Sound year round and the high-speed M/V Chenega operates the area in the summer months.

Cordova has two airports. Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport is a state-owned airport located 11 miles (17.7 km) east of the town center. It has regular jet service provided by Alaska Airlines as well as regular service by Era Aviation. Its main runway is 7500 feet (2286 m) long with an asphalt surface.[29] The Cordova Municipal Airport is 1-mile (1.8 km) from the town and is also state owned. It is located on Lake Eyak which also has a seaplane landing area. The sole runway has a length of 1,800 feet (550 m) with a gravel surface. The municipal airport is mostly used by air taxis and personal aircraft.[30]

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1996 Alaska Municipal Officials Directory. Juneau: Alaska Municipal League/Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs. January 1996. p. 43. 
  2. ^ Gibbins, Jennifer (March 15, 2013). "Cordova picks new mayor". The Cordova Times (Cordova). (subscription required)
  3. ^ "Community: Cordova". Community Database Online. Juneau: Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, Division of Community and Regional Affairs. February 11, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Cordova". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved March 1, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Founding of Cordova". Cordova Historical Society. Retrieved March 1, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Native History". Cordova Historical Society. Retrieved April 12, 2010. 
  7. ^ Cordova - Page 49 (2012). By Google Books. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  8. ^ Bishop, Mary Anne; Powers, Sean (2003). Restoration of Razor Clam (Siliqua patula) Populations in Southeastern Prince William Sound, Alaska. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  9. ^ Rodebaugh, Dave (February 12, 2009). "Alaskan oil spill prompts action". The Durango Herald. Retrieved May 16, 2009. 
  10. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  11. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  12. ^ a b "Historical Weather for Cordova, Alaska, United States". Weatherbase. Retrieved April 5, 2010. 
  13. ^ "An Historical Narrative of Fishing in the Prince William Sound/ Copper River Area". Cordova District Fishermen United. Retrieved April 15, 2010. 
  14. ^ "2009 Prince William Sound Salmon Season Summary". Alaska Department of Fish and Game. January 12, 2010. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Cordova Chamber of Commerce". Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Cordova Historical Museum". Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  17. ^ Cordova Center at CityofCordova.net
  18. ^ Moore, Greg. "Carry me home...Sun Valley's early chairlifts keep on chugging". Retrieved November 14, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Western Prince William Sound Backcountry". United States Forest Service. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  20. ^ Cordova Mun. Code, Alaska City Charter (2009). Retrieved April 8, 2010.
  21. ^ Cordova Mun. Code, Alaska City Charter, Article III (2009). Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  22. ^ Cordova Mun. Code, Title 5 (2009). Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  23. ^ "National Center for Education Statistics". United States Department of Education. Retrieved April 5, 2010. 
  24. ^ "The Cordova Times". 
  25. ^ "History of KLAM". Retrieved April 12, 2010. 
  26. ^ "History of KCDV". Retrieved April 12, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Station Profile". KCHU website. Retrieved April 12, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Highway Analysis System Route List". Alaska Department of Transportation. October 27, 2008. p. 36. Retrieved April 12, 2010. [dead link]
  29. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for CDV (Form 5010 PDF), effective October 10, 2008.
  30. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for CKU (Form 5010 PDF), effective September 25, 2008.

External links[edit]

Media related to Cordova, Alaska at Wikimedia Commons