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Public port meetings: strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results

Nome is planning to build the nation’s first deep water port in the Arctic and officials are wondering how they can use it to diversify the community’ economy. Just a handful of meetings have generated a plethora of ideas.

Building a deepwater port in Nome could create a huge economic boom for the community’s residents. Port officials have been holding meetings soliciting residents’ thoughts on what they should plan for.

Participants wrote their comments and opinions on sticky notes and placed them in one of four sections: strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results. The city’s port manager, Joy Baker, said the community’s response was engaging and “overwhelmingly supportive.”

“There were some really great ideas this week. Other people have different perspectives. And then you put them all together and you’re like, ‘oh, that’s a great idea.’ And that it blends into what we’re seeing here.”

Once completed, the port could even accommodate larger cruise ships carrying up to 4,000 passengers, which is more than the city’s population. Baker said the expansion isn’t just about the port itself, but the opportunities it brings for existing businesses and yearning entrepreneurs. 

Residents suggested new amenities like food trucks and public bathrooms would also help the community capitalize on influxes of tourists. 

Baker said there’ll be an increasing demand for service businesses as construction begins to attract tourists.

“But if you’re talking about larger commercial operations, refueling, restaurants, lodging, transportation, vehicle rentals, all of that needs to be in place to the degree that’s going to be needed to support the growing traffic at the port with the expansion.”

The project was praised by state representatives last week after receiving a quarter of a million dollars in federal funding and signing a Partner Project Announcement, or PPA, with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. Baker said the agreement with USACE was a necessity for the port.

Baker said consultants will create a comprehensive report summarizing the feedback received, which will be shared with both the city and port commission. She said more input from the public will be taken before a final plan is presented.

Photo at top: A large ship preparing to dock off-shore from Nome. It’s a naval vessel called the ‘JDS Kashima’. (Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM 2020)

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