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Few Regional Benefits in BSNC’s Analysis of Port Clarence Development

Map of Port Clarence and the Seward Peninsula. Image: Google Earth, 2013.

The Bering Straits Native Corporation completed a study on the economic feasibility of developing a support base for arctic traffic at Port Clarence.

Port Clarence is Western Alaska’s only naturally deep water port, and BSNC is pursuing its land title to the area under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

The report concludes oil and gas development in the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas is the only possible funding source to maintain the base, which would require five million dollars per year in revenue.

The report expects arctic traffic to increase over the coming years and predicts the port’s main users would be regional vessels from Nome and Kotzebue and traffic from oil and gas activity.

As far as regional benefits, the report does not expect the port to “significantly” reduce living costs. The site could act as a storage site for bulk orders, but that benefit is negated by the wide dispersal of communities, their relation to Nome as the regional hub, and “the extensive use of the Bypass Mail Program.”

Teller and Brevig Mission, located near Port Clarence, could possibly benefit from lower fuel prices; however, they would first have to invest in larger storage facilities. The Red Dog Mine could also benefit from lower fuel costs but only with sustained oil and gas activity at the port.

The reports says employment opportunities at the port would remain minimal unless the oil and gas industry commits to using Port Clarence as a main base.

As an arctic support base, Port Clarence could refuel vessels, facilitate crew changes, act as a port of refuge, and dispatch search and rescue operations.