Nome’s Inner Harbor project back on track, inflation affects Deep Draft Port project

Ahead of the December deadline, the Nome Port Commission has selected a plan to deepen the inner harbor. This is part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Inner Harbor CAP 107 Study.

During last week’s regular meeting, six out of seven commissioners approved alternative C which creates an east boat ramp within Nome’s inner harbor. Commissioner Drew McCann was not present. This option will also provide for an east turning basin with a depth of 12 feet alongside the already proposed west turning basin and boat ramp. Commissioners Derek McLarty and Charlie Lean were the only ones who spoke up about this plan.

“Alternative C is beautiful,” McLarty said.

“Yeah I agree, alternate C has the east turning basin, the approach channel, the turning basin, the west turning basin; all good stuff,” Lean said.

Overall alternative C deepens the majority of the inner harbor from eight feet to 12 feet, except for the area in front of the docks and heading up the Snake River.

In other business, Port Director Joy Baker shared that the current inflation the country is experiencing will have an effect on Nome’s Arctic Deep Draft Port project.

“You can talk to people and they say inflation is at 11%. You talk to others and they say it’s 18%. So all we know is that inflation has driven up the price of the project, just not sure how much right now,” Baker said.

The city will be overly cautious on the exact cost of the port project until the federal government gives Nome realistic numbers, Baker said.

And that wasn’t the only inflated number discussed during last week’s Port Commission meeting. What was supposed to be a record year for cruise ships in Nome with 23 scheduled this summer, ended with only nine actually showing up, Nome Harbormaster Lucas Stotts said. The final ship to arrive for the season was the Le Commandant Charcot on Oct. 1.

But looking ahead to 2023, more than 20 cruise ships are already on deck for next season, Stotts said.

“If there’s ten at anchor and 11 at docks, then there’s also three or four more that might get added to the schedule if they can get work out details with the cruise ship companies. So this shows that appetite for cruising up here is definitely very healthy,” Stotts said.

The main reason even more cruise ships aren’t coming to Nome is due to the limiting depth of the Port’s draft, Stotts said.

The economic benefit the cruise ship industry brings to the City of Nome has been hard to quantify in recent years, but many ships were ‘turnarounds’ this year and did not spend much time docked in town.

Nome also missed out on hosting this year’s Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators’ Conference. But even though it was relocated to Anchorage, there was still a direct benefit to Western Alaska. Before the end of the conference, Turnagain Marine Construction gave a $35,000 donation in engineering services to support storm recovery efforts in the region, Port Director Baker said.

Those funds will go into the Western Alaska recovery program to help regional communities, according to Baker.

Image at top: Le Comandant cruise ship can be seen anchored offshore while other vessels sit at the Port of Nome. Photo courtesy of Harbormaster, Lucas Stotts, used with permission.