Port Commission Considers Plans for Thornbush Site, Discusses Latest Finances

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

Despite the cancellation of cruise ships and slowed down tourism at the Port of Nome the Port’s budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2020 is still shrinking.

That’s according to Port Director Joy Baker who updated the Nome Port Commission on the latest numbers during their recent regular meeting.   

“We are still in the hole but nowhere near where we were. We’re digging ourselves out. We’ve done well in July and August for gravel.”

– Joy Baker

That financial gap is due to the West Gold dock repair, which has since been completed. That project cost the Port about a million dollars last summer.

Plans to expand the Inner Harbor at the Port of Nome are slowly moving forward as preliminary logistics begin to fall in place. According to port staff, over the past eight years that area has seen increased traffic and congestion. 

Before that can be done however, the City of Nome needs to pay for soil samples to be dredged from the inner harbor. Nome put out requests for proposals which closed on August 27th.  

Port Director Baker says they originally were hoping to have the samples done before the new year. 

“We’re hoping they can obtain the samples before freeze-up but two of the companies have asked to do it through the ice… unfortunately without ice forming solid until the end of the year, that could push the schedule back a month or two.”

– Joy Baker

Meanwhile, the Port of Nome Deep-Draft Expansion project is still waiting for authorization from Congress and could be signed by the end of 2020. The project has been approved by the House in a bill called the Water Resources Development Act 2020 and now it awaits approval from the Senate. 

That possible project is just one of many things the Port Commission will keep in mind as they look to develop the industrial pad of land around the Port known as the Thornbush Site.  

Port Commissioner Jim West Jr. solicited ideas from the group about short- and long-term priorities. One relatively short-term project, suggested by Charlie Lean, was filling in the terrace south of the tank farm to help prevent movement. 

“That would do two things that would save the tanks and even if utilities [NJUS] move out, the Navy has been talking about needing tanks. Likewise, I think Bonanza’s tanks are jeopardized by water saturation.”

– Charlie Lean

Baker doesn’t think that the 18-acre parcel they have will be enough and said ultimately, they would need to present a plan to the City Council for expanding. 

On Thursday [Sep 3], the Nome City Council will meet in a special session to approve Kinetic Laboratories $184,500 bid to complete soil sampling in the Nome Inner Harbor for a March 15th deadline. 

Image at Top: The Port of Nome at the mouth of the Snake River, June 2018 (Photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM)