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Dredging and Development the Focus of Recent Port Commission Meeting

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

The Nome Port Commission is focused on ongoing engineering projects this summer. At its meeting on Thursday night, commissioners began the discussion on what depth to dredge the Snake River.

Some argued in favor of dredging all the way down to 8 feet, while others talked of widening the bank.

“It’s kind of the chicken or the egg thing,” said Port Director Joy Baker. “What do you do? Dig deeper or make it bigger?”

Baker said there are benefits to both, but Commissioner Charlie Lean warned that, at deeper depths, the water wouldn’t freeze all the way to the bottom. He compared ice on top of water to the teetering of a diving board.

Lean said, even now, dredged to four feet, the ice isn’t freezing all the way down.

“I went out and tested it last year with an ice auger, and we had 30 inches of ice right where we’re talking about,” Lean explained.

The Commission will continue discussions on dredging at their next meeting, where they also plan to flesh out development of the Thornbush Subdivision. That’s an area of land owned by the port located north of West Beach. It’s saturated with ice lenses, which Commissioner Lean worries will make stabilizing the land difficult.

“If a person building over in that vicinity laid down a gravel pad, would it be like five years, 20 years, 50 years before one felt that the ground would be stable enough to do major construction on it?” Lean asked.

Engineers attending the meeting advised against building any permanent structures on the Thornbush Subdivision.

Port Director Joy Baker said the land will be surveyed next week to see how thick of a gravel pad is needed.

The Port Commission will revisit these issues at its next meeting August 18.