U.S. delegation asks Army to accelerate Nome’s deep-draft port
The Nome Port Commission met last week and poured over a comprehensive list of projects on the worktable for the Port of Nome. The projects fall under maintenance, projects in planning stages, already funded projects, some of which have finished, and projects waiting for funds.
The commission has to weigh the benefit compared to the cost on short-term and long-term projects, Joy Baker, port director, said at the Aug. 18 meeting. The panel had the intent to put the work orders on a list of priorities, but after hashing over the projects regarding scope, status funding sources and time schedule, they settled on several projects suggested by Joy Baker.
Accomplishing the future projects will help not only local users of the port facility through maintenance and development, as well as expansion, but also at the same time make the Port of Nome more attractive as a site for a deep-draft port to serve international commerce.
The commissioners meeting packet held a copy of an important letter from the Alaska congressional delegation—Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, U.S. Senators, and Rep. Don Young — to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army’s civil works division, urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get the lead out on putting a deep-draft port at Nome. They asked for a meeting to discuss the status of the Army Corps study.
A study that was an important step to approval of the deep-draft port upgrades has been paused for a year since Shell Oil pulled out of the region’s waters is due to come up for consideration in October. Projections from that event put the project outside a federally mandated cost-benefit ratio. Upgrading the Port of Nome would improve the community and region’s economic stability, proponents say.
“While we appreciate that circumstances changed following the withdrawal of Shell’s offshore oil and gas exploration activities, we strongly believe that the increased maritime traffic in the region justifies moving forward with the evaluation of the project,” the letter said.
The Corps already has sufficient authority under a Section 2104 of the Water Resources and Development Act of 2014. That section expands COE authority under a Remote and Subsistence Harbor provision included in the 2007 Water and Resources Development Act, the letter continues.
“We would like to underscore the intent of the provision is to facilitate the ability of the Army Corps to support projects that fall outside the traditional national economic framework, it goes o.
Further delay by the Corps raises the level of risk that the U.S. would be unprepared to meet new challenges in the Arctic stemming from unprecedented vessel activity—maritime casualties that could disrupt the region’s subsistence fishing and hunting culture, less effective search and rescue and loss of potential economic development.
Darcy would be coming to Nome Sept. 14 to look at the port project site, according to Baker. Not often does one of such stature and rank come to a remote site.
“This is great news,” Baker said.
The port panel acknowledged the good work of Coasties from the USCG cutter Alex Haley who helped clean up Middle Beach, timely preparation for the 800-ft. cruise ship Crystal Serenity’s visit Aug. 21. They also worked on the old museum and library building on Front Street and painted the Nome Fire Hall.
Baker thanked Harbormaster Lucas Stotts and port staff for cleaning up the port and harbor area, in preparation for the Crystal Serenity visitors, and gave a whopping kudos to employee Shantel Bruner, who tended flowers in the dredge buckets.
The next meeting will occur Sept. 15 and include a work session to which public will be invited.