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Westgold Dock Almost Fully Functioning Again; Port Director Details Repairs

Aerial view of Nome harbor and port area and the mouth of the Snake River.

The repairs on Nome’s Westgold Dock are almost complete, at a cost so far of close to $1.5 million. Here is a recap of what has happened since port staff first discovered the damage on June 10.

The dock fill was excavated once the initial split on the face of the Westgold Dock was found. Nome Port Director Joy Baker says that’s when she and her port staff realized the damage wasn’t just superficial.

“That’s because once we did the excavation, we could see that the tailwall was separated from the wye. There was a gap about this wide [shows with her hands] all the way down, as far as we excavated and beyond. That’s not supposed to be like that. It’s supposed to be securely attached from construction.”

According to a memo sent out by Baker in late June, an engineer from PND Engineers Inc. inspected the dock on June 13. His evaluation of the crack in one of the wyes — the joint connection between the tailwall sheet pile, which is buried within the dock fill, and different cells of the dock in the shape of the letter “Y” — was that it originated at the top from an impact load on the fender pile. The source of the impact and the time of the incident is still unknown.

Baker says the engineers’ recommendation then was to…

“They recommended that we actually remove the tailwall, remove both cells. Then, we are going to rebuild those cells from each point, each existing wye that’s in good condition, wrap the cells back into the fill, and then fill the dock again.”

Initially, the cost of materials, construction equipment, and engineering inspections came to a total of over $500,000; however, that did not include the site work on the dock itself. Once the City contacted potential contractors to do the Westgold Dock repairs, Baker’s memo says only STG was available to complete the project within the allotted time frame. They gave an estimate of almost $970,000, bringing the total cost of the project to more than $1.4 million.

Baker acknowledges these emergency repairs can be relatively expensive, and, when finished, will be closer to $1.5 million. (She mentioned to the Port Commission last week, on August 15, that the Port will use whatever money they can from fiscal year 2019 to start paying back the City of Nome for this project.) But the potential loss of Nome’s third dock means the Port would lose out on more business this season.

“This dock has life left in it. So that’s why we valued the option of the cost of taking the entire dock out of service this year and maybe next year, trying to find the funds to fix the entire dock, which, in this funding climate, is… we could wind up with an unusable dock for two to three to four years.”

While the repairs are underway, Baker says vessel traffic on the Westgold Dock has been moved to the city and middle docks, which can cause more congestion in those areas.

The Port Director anticipates the impacts on things like port calls and vessel activity at the Port of Nome will be minimal with the repairs expected to be completed by the end of the month [August].

Waiting until after the busy summer season to start the repairs, in Baker’s opinion, was not a viable option.

“We can’t replace the fill because the engineers have advised that there is risk to putting that heavy material load back on the face of the dock. So, if we leave the project site just like this for the winter and endure all the fall storms, we could be looking at further damage. So, waiting for any number of reasons is just not a good plan.”

Baker says the STG crew is close to finishing up the repairs, including back-filling and compacting the sediment. After the dust settles, over the next couple of weeks, Westgold Dock should once again be fully functioning.

Image at top: The Port of Nome at the mouth of the Snake River, June 2018. Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM file.

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