NSEDC to distribute $200,000 in community benefit share
The Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation’s board of directors met last week in Nome for their 2019 third quarter meetings.
The agenda included voting on the 2019 Community Benefit Share and the funding of a number of infrastructure projects in the region. The board heard reports on fisheries, the corporation’s financial position and investments, and voted on a new Executive Committee.
Some legal issues were discussed in executive session.
The 2019 NSEDC Community Benefit Share, or CBS for short, was approved with $200,000 for each of the 15 member communities. Each community will hold public meetings to discuss how best to utilize the funds.
“With the success of our for-profit subsidiary, I felt it important to invest the recent dividends into our communities through the Community Benefit Share,” said Sergeant-At-Arms Harvey Sookiayak. “The CBS has become a much relied upon avenue of funding for city governments, schools and other entities to provide the services our residents rely on.”
Three grants were approved under the newly created Water and Sewer Fund. Nome Joint Utility System was awarded $181,891 to rehabilitate the River Street lift station. The City of Teller will get $195,492 for washeteria renovations, including a new septic tank and sewer line. And the City of Elim receives $93,300 for the water treatment plant. They will replace a boiler and leaky plumbing. The Water and Sewer Fund is a five-year program which will sunset in 2024.
Three grants were approved in the Large Infrastructure and Community Energy Fund projects and one under the Community Energy Fund. The Native Village of Diomede gets $99,940 to design a new store. Nome-Beltz High School will receive $80,000 for an outdoor fitness course. The VFW Post 9569 in Nome will have $91,707 to renovate their building and the community energy fund grant awards the City of Teller $21,910 to install energy efficient LED streetlights.
The board also elected its executive committee. Frank Katchatag is the new chairman with Dan Harrelson as vice chairman. Harvey Sookiayak is sergeant-at-arms and Dean Peterson and Joe Garnie are named to the NSEDC executive committee. At the same meeting the board swore in returning member representatives Sara Seetot from Brevig Mission, Frances Ozenna from Little Diomede, Harvey Sookiayak from Shaktoolik, Dan Harrelson from White Mountain and Frank Katchatag from Unalakleet.
“I’m happy about how things are going for the investments,” said Rick Walicki in delivering the financial report to the board. NSEDC has four investment accounts with a total of $98 million. Income from investments this year totals $11.3 million, which is $8 million ahead of the budget. There are $1.56 million available to loan to commercial fishermen. Twenty large vessel loans are out with most on track.
Despite what was called a “crab crash” the fishing season was successful. Norton Sound Seafood Products Working Group member Frank McFarland said he’s sure they’d qualify for federal disaster relief but that takes time. The poor crab season was a direct hit to the economy and to the fisherman, he said. Nome board representative and fisherman Adem Boeckmann reported that two-thirds of his income this past season came from halibut.
The herring catch was at 84,000 pounds and salmon ended on Sept. 13 with just over a million pounds and a $2 million payout to 148 fishermen. The coho harvest was the fourth largest of all time. Most of the salmon has been sold already. The coho fillets are sold out.
Norton Sound Seafood Products produced 1.58 million pounds of finished product. “We did not have a very good year in Norton Bay this year,” said NSSP Operations Manager William Johnson.
NOAA has already funded a trawl survey of the Northern Bering Sea in 2020. This year’s survey shows that Pacific cod has increased about 30 percent over last year and now comprises about two-thirds of the biomass in the Bering Sea. Non-local vessels have been coming north to fish these stocks, with a significant number of long-liners entering the fishery. The same thing is happening on the Russian side. Pot cod boats are talking about bringing a processor up next year.
The new NSEDC office building in Unalakleet is slightly behind schedule but should be mostly finished by mid-January. Teller has requested a septic tank for the washeteria and Elim needs a boiler replaced. Board member Doug Swanson of Koyuk mentioned the pilot sponsorship program in which Wilson Hoogendorn has soloed.
Editor's Note: This story reflects corrections made to the article that was printed in newspaper.