With vessel traffic increasing through the arctic, Nome has been invited to join an advising body to offer input on regional marine use.
Arctic Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower is inviting Nome Mayor Denise Michels and Northwest Arctic Borough Mayor Reggie Joule to join her in creating a Harbor Safety Committee.
Joy Baker, Port Project Manager, explained the HSC invitation at Thursday’s Port Commission meeting. She said the committee would draft policy “on issues such as navigation, bunkering, loitering, ANGSA navigation, anchorage locations. They’re specifically concerned about navigation and shipping lanes through the Bering Strait.”
Baker said Nome’s mayor, and the mayor of both boroughs, would lead the HSC as it drafts guidelines for use of regional waters. They would also elect regional representatives with local knowledge of marine activity to the committee to create policies on regional marine use, balancing the needs of industry, fishing, and local, cultural lifestyles. The the committee would propose the policies to the U.S. Coast Guard for implementation.
However, Baker said just because the HSC proposes a regulation does not mean it will take effect. “[Coast Guard officials] don’t always approve them,” Baker said. “Some of them, they say, ‘No this won’t work. You have to go back and rethink this.’ Or they will accept them and say, ‘If you guys are all in agreement, then we’ll look into implementing this for your area.’”
Baker said the HSC premise is new to Alaska. While they committee’s exist across the Lower 48, applying those models to Alaska doesn’t necessarily work, due to the state’s geographic and cultural demands.
“There isn’t a lot of knowledge in the state about [HSCs] yet,” Baker said. “Although Dutch Harbor has talked about it, Southeast has talked about, no one’s jumped into it yet.”
The closest precedent in Alaska, Baker said, is the Valdez Port Maritime Committee, which serves a similar purpose as an HSC.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, City Manager Josie Bahnke announced the Middle Dock project received an extra one million dollars from the U.S. Commerce Department of Economic Development. Bahnke said the money will either go towards the project’s balance or towards enhancing the dock with communications and utilities.