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Nome Port Commission asks for increased gravel rate, more city funds for deep draft port design

An aerial view of Nome's small boat harbor and port. Photo: Joy Baker, City of Nome.

Nome’s Port Commission is requesting slightly increased gravel rates and over $1.5 million to advance the design of the Arctic Deep Draft Port. The City Council will make the final decision on these matters during its upcoming meetings.

On Jan. 20, the Port Commission held a work session and regular meeting to discuss a roughly 4% increase in gravel rates due to an adjusted Consumer Price Index, or CPI. The 5-year average CPI has gone up 3.67%, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

That means the current base rate of $2.15 for the Port of Nome will increase to $2.23 if the Common Council approves the gravel rate changes during a future meeting.

In other business, the Port Commission formally thanked the Alaska Congressional Delegation for their work in securing federal funding from Infrastructure Act for Deep Draft Port, which was announced on Jan. 19.

Port Director Joy Baker also shared a letter that Governor Mike Dunleavy sent to various Congressional committee heads asking for them to fully fund the design and construction of Nome’s Arctic Deep Draft Port through the 2022 Water Resources Reform and Development Act.

Before adjourning the roughly three-hour-long meeting, Baker said the Commission voted in favor of paying the almost $1.7 million dollars to PND Engineers to achieve 65% of the design level for Nome’s Deep Draft Port. PND is currently on schedule to complete 35% of the design level by Feb. 15 and then must complete 65% by June 30.

That funding request was approved unanimously by the Nome Common Council during their regular meeting last night. The Council will loan the $1,680,425 to the Port for the next phase of the Arctic Deep Draft Port design.

The port could pay this money back to the City of Nome in the future using grants that Port Director Baker is currently applying for, City Manager Glenn Steckman said. Councilmember Scot Henderson asked Baker if the Port could pay the funds back to the City within three years and Baker said that would be doable. The Port of Nome is also expecting a very busy docking season with multiple cruise ships scheduled to stop in the Gold Rush City this summer, which Baker points to as a potential boost in revenue.

Also during their latest regular meeting, the Port Commission did not take action on the new business item of CAP 107 Project Study for the Inner Harbor.

Baker said in her report that this project has “encountered a hurdle with the Pacific Ocean Division (POD) directing the Alaska District to pursue de-authorization of portions of the federal dredge footprint in the Nome Harbor, along with the East and South Dock sheet pile faces, making them local responsibilities,” Baker explained. “These requirements have been identified as necessary steps based on an older Corps policy just being implemented at Nome. De-authorization requires congressional action which takes time, and converts maintenance that has always been federal responsibility, to the City.”

After further discussion with the Corps, it appears the City has three choices:

  1. accept the de-authorization path and the Corps will move forward with the TSP #4 milestone;
  2. terminate the Corps study and the project goes to file 13;
  3. “elevate the problem to the Congressional Delegation to seek some type of remedy,” Baker stated.

Again the Port Commission did not make a final decision on this matter during last week’s regular meeting.

And coming up next week, on Feb. 9, the U.S. Army Corps will be hosting a virtual public meeting to discuss Nome’s Arctic Deep Draft Port. Members of the public can join from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m at the following link: https://usace1.webex.com/meet/portofnome.

Image at top: An aerial view of Nome’s small boat harbor and port. Photo: Joy Baker, City of Nome.

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