Great News! Copper Valley Will Have Its Own Census Area

Copper Valley Is Tied To Cordova, Valdez & Whittier – Which Has Made Defining Our Community Difficult U.S. Census Plans To Give Us Our O...

Copper Valley Is Tied To Cordova, Valdez & Whittier – Which Has Made Defining Our Community Difficult

U.S. Census Plans To Give Us Our Own District. Finally.

Map of Copper Valley originally made for the 1987 Country Journal (Copyright David Mudrick)


The Copper River Valley, a part of the so-called "Unorganized Borough," has always been something of a state of mind rather than a formal reality. The people who live here know and understand our unspoken boundaries, which loosely tie to a wide range of local services. Our schools, our postal areas, where we go for simple medical care, our Chamber of Commerce, the stores we go to, the EMS boundaries and local fire departments, our Trooper area and Fish & Game, BLM and National Park regions – as well as the Ahtna region boundaries – this is "us." This is the place that we as residents intuitively understand to be "the Copper Valley" – but that outsiders often don't. 

There's hopeful news on the horizon. On December 17th, the state of Alaska sent the following statement to the Country Journal about a project that has been in the works for awhile – placing our region in its own census area.
Richard Raines, of the state Bureau of Vital Statistics wrote:
"The U.S. Census Bureau has plans to divide the current Valdez-Cordova CA [Census Area] into two new Census Areas: Chugach and Copper River..."




In spite of our enormous size, as large as West Virginia, the Copper Valley is easy to overlook because it's a patchwork of Gold Rush and Alaska homesteading-era settlements, communities and Native villages. 
The distant coastal towns of Valdez, Cordova and Whittier are grouped together with our many smaller communities and Native villages in the Copper Valley in a single, confusing, "Valdez-Cordova Census District." Grouping the Copper Valley with Valdez and Cordova has, for years, allowed undercounting of the Copper Valley as the cities have "borrowed" people from our region to bolster their populations and revenue.
Those three towns have very little in common with us in the Copper Valley. They are all along the ocean. Two of them are not physically tied in any manner by road to the Copper Valley. And, unlike the Copper River region they all have city governments.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem with this issue of the outside world not recognizing our region as an entity has become increasingly apparent. The COVID-19 infection figures that are disseminated by the state on a daily basis separate out both Cordova and Valdez from the Valley. But our numbers are mixed in with Whittier, a one-building "town" south of Anchorage that is grouped with all the Copper River communities in a slush category called: "Other." It simply has never made sense to us or to Whittier. 





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