Port supporters continue to push expansion to deeper water
Port of Nome administrators continue to apply the spurs to hopes for a deep-draft port in Nome.
Port Director Joy Baker and Mayor Richard Beneville provided testimony to the Legislature on House Joint Resolution 33 urging Congress to establish an Arctic naval station as the United States, according to resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Tuck, “has not yet fully embraced its role as an arctic nation and the responsibilities that come along with it.”
The resolution cites expanded business and shipping in the Arctic, Russia’s superiority in icebreaker vessels and establishment of its Joint Arctic Strategic Command to assert its long-term military in the region and China’s developing interests, along with building its own ship with icebreaker capabilities and becoming a permanent observer in Arctic Council.
Indeed, Gov. Bill Walker has been recruiting trade between Alaska and China and encouraging trade project travel to China to foster trade agreements.
The Nome Port Commission has committed $1.5 million on a cost share agreement with the federal government to fund a port feasibility study to cost an estimated $3 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers paused a feasibility study of building a deep-draft port in Nome when Royal Dutch Shell pulled out of the arctic in 2015, affecting the cost-benefit analysis. Last month, the U.S. ACOE began a new study. The ACOE Alaska District is pulling together a study team and has begun to develop the framework that a planning charrette will refine in meetings in Nome planned for April 24 and 25.
Baker and Beneville traveled to Washington D. C. late last month to meet with agencies, which have Arctic oversight as well as with the Alaska Congressional delegation. The dynamic of the conversation, according to Baker, has evolved to the many benefits stemming from the expansion of the Port of Nome, as well as creative ways of funding construction.
In other work, the commission prioritized a list of port and harbor maintenance projects from port and harbor operating funds in this order:
• Hydrotests, maintenance and inspections on the port fuel lines system to meet compliance requirements and ensure integrity of the equipment, $15,000, give or take.
• Causeway bridge fuel line hangar and roller repairs—repair corroded ones and recommend US ACOE adjust fill behind back walls under bridge approaches, about $50,000.
• Launch ramp repair—Remove upper concrete planks at harbor launch ramp and fill with grout to fill in voids and increase structure support, $150,000 to $200,000.
• Replacement of harbor skiff and trailer—Replace old Boston Whaler that was refurbished from an abandoned vessel along with failing trailer, unknown amount.
• Replace oldest vehicle in port and harbor vehicle fleet, $30,000.
Commissioner Denise Michels had turned in her resignation earlier in the day of the meeting, March 8. According to Nome law, the resignation is not final until the Nome Common Council accepts it, likely at the next Council meeting on March 27.
Colby Engstrom rose during public comment period to assure the panel that he is still looking for a spot near the Port of Nome to establish laundry facilities, which would be open year around. Engstrom has seed money from Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. Nome has no public laundry or shower facilities. Engstrom wants to put a laundry at the port for those involved in shipping traffic to be able to suds their duds. Port administrators could make property available, but Engstrom would have to deal with water and sewer issues. He has looked at the corner of F Street and Seppala, but there is no water supply. He is still talking to King Island officials concerning the property on River Street west of the Nugget Inn. Commissioner Russell Rowe brought the conversation around to allowing Engstrom to set up his laundry behind the harbor office but that involved a conflict of interest. The City of Nome could stub up the water connection and retain ownership, but at the same time make the lot more valuable. Jim West Jr., commission chair, noted that he had a lot across from the harbor office.
Harbormaster Lucas Stotts announced that NOAA research ship Fairweather would make two calls in June—tentatively June 9 and June 20-23, and again along Aug. 2 through 6. The first two calls will feature tours aboard for the public to explore the vessel.