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Nome Port Commission Approves Capital Improvements Plan, Reviews Deep Draft Port Designs

Garth Howlett, senior engineer at PND Engineers, presents options for a deep draft port to the Nome Port Commission.
Garth Howlett, senior engineer at PND Engineers, presents options for a deep draft port to the Nome Port Commission. Photo: KNOM.

The Nome Port Commission voted last night to approve a Capital Improvements Plan. Created with Palmer-based Cordova Consulting, the purpose of the plan is to capture the Port’s major one-time expenditures such as land, buildings, and equipment.

The plan will now be sent to the Nome City Council, to be used as a working tool to ensure the “timely repair and replacement” of Port infrastructure.

Looking ahead, the Commission also reviewed several possibilities for a deep draft port. In 2015, Nome was “tentatively” selected as the site of an Arctic deep draft port by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps proposed dredging the harbor six feet below its current depth to -28 feet, at a cost of around $215 million.

The Port wants to dream bigger.

“I think we really need to be looking at deeper depths, particularly if we’re talking about moving beyond a regional port to something that really can satisfy the needs for the Arctic into the future,” said Garth Howlett. Howlett is a senior engineer at PND Engineers, an Anchorage firm the Port has worked with for many years.

PND’s analysis found that an optimized design, making use of better environmental data and cheaper materials, could achieve a depth of -40 [minus 40] feet without a dramatic increase in cost.

At that depth, Commissioner Charlie Lean says Nome’s Port could see more variety of ships:

“Maybe we could get a container ship in, or maybe we could get an oil tanker to the dock. That would make us more competitive and would be good for the citizenry of the whole region, not just Nome. We’d be the only container dock [on the west coast]. That’d be huge.”

In the more immediate future, the City has received three applications for the vacant seat on the Port Commission, and Commissioners Lean and Jim West, Jr. applied to renew their terms. The City Council will consider the applications at its meeting on November 27th.

The Port Commission will meet again on December 14th.

Image at top: Garth Howlett, senior engineer at PND Engineers, presents options for a deep draft port to the Nome Port Commission. Photo: KNOM.

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