Hooper Bay is a city in southwest Alaska. It is located on the coast of the Bering Sea and the north coast of a bay called Hooper Bay. The city is also in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The City of Hooper Bay is located in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta approximately 80 miles south of the mouth of the Yukon River.
The elevation of Hooper Bay is 43 feet above sea level. The land around Hooper Bay is tundra so there are no trees. There is a large, continuous layer of permafrost under Hooper Bay and the surrounding area.
Hooper Bay is vulnerable to several natural hazards including flooding, severe weather, earthquakes and wildfires. The coastal land around Hooper Bay is also eroding. Community leaders report that the climate is warming and this is causing the permafrost to melt and has resulted in increased flooding and erosion. Like Shishmaref, the people of Hooper Bay are discussing the possibility of moving the village to higher ground if a reliable water source can be found nearby.
Hooper Bay has a Continental Subarctic Climate under the KÃ¶ppen Climate Classification system. It has cold winters but not as cold as the interior. The record low temperature in Hooper Bay is -26.0 °F. Summers are cool as well. Only the months of June and July have an average high over 50 °F. On average, Hooper Bay gets 25.5 inches of rain and 68.2 inches of snow each year.
The City of Hooper Bay was incorporated in 1966. It is part of the Unorganized Borough, in the Kusilvak Census Area. The population of Hooper Bay is 1247 people. Hooper Bay is approximately 92% Alaska Native and 4% White. Hooper Bay was included in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), and is recognized by the Federal Government as a Native village. The Yupik community name for Hooper Bay is Naparyaarmiut.
The economy of Hooper Bay revolves around public spending, commercial halibut fishing and subsistence activities. Coastal Villages Seafoods operates a halibut processing facility in Hooper Bay. However, despite the importance of commercial halibut fishing, relatively few of the residents of Hooper Bay work in the fishing industry.
Many people in Hooper Bay have public service jobs or work in the service industry. For most of the people of Hooper Bay, wage work is seasonal. Most people in Hooper Bay engage in subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering. Residents hunt walrus, beluga whales, and waterfowl and gather plants and berries. Subsistence fishing is also important in Hooper Bay. People subsistence fish for halibut and red salmon, pink salmon and chum salmon. Some people also make grass baskets or ivory carvings to earn extra income.
Hooper Bay has high levels of poverty. In 2010, Hooper Bay had a per capita income of $8,635 and a median household income of $34,375. Hooper Bay ranks 219th out of 299 Alaskan communities in terms of household income.
Hooper Bay is not on the road system. It is only accessible by ship or by plane. The airport in Hooper Bay has a state-owned 3,300 foot long paved runway. Groceries are flown in year round. Residents of Hooper Bay primarily use ATVs and snow machines for transportation. Barges deliver shipments of fuel and supplies during the summer. Hooper Bay has one school for grades K-12.
Residents of Hooper Bay get their water from three wells that were drilled in 1997. Water is piped to the school, teacher housing, the clinic building, and a washateria. Besides teacher housing, none of the homes in Hooper Bay have indoor plumbing. People get water from the washateria and use buckets to haul waste to the local landfill. The community has a health clinic and in emergencies residents can be airlifted to the hospitals in Bethel and Nome.
The residents of Hooper Bay get electricity through a diesel generator that is operated by the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC). Hooper also has three wind turbines, built by AVEC in 2004. The wind turbines provide 24% of the electricity used in Hooper Bay. Buildings in Hooper Bay are heated with heating fuel, which is delivered by Crowther.
There are no major mining operations near Hooper Bay. Nothing that I found mentioned a tourism industry in Hooper Bay and I don’t really see potential for Hooper Bay to become a major tourist center. I have been to Nome, which is much larger and I would not consider Nome to be a major tourist center either.
In the future, if climate change continues to cause increased erosion around Hooper Bay then the community may need to be relocated to higher ground. It is likely that this will occur if the permafrost continues to melt and sea levels rise due to climate change. I would not be surprised if the city has been moved twenty or thirty years from now.
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. 2020. “Hooper Bay, Alaska.’ Accessed April 10, 2020. https://dcced.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=0b0dbcafc57d4971b4daeb307c6eab15#
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2011. “Fishing Communities of Alaska: Hooper Bay.’ Accessed April 10, 2020. https://archive.fisheries.noaa.gov/afsc/REFM/Socioeconomics/Projects/communityprofiles/Hooper_Bay_Profile_2000_2010.pdf