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Nome Port Commission Seeks Funding for Incinerator, Discusses Fuel Dispersants, Wave Buoy

The Nome Port Commission sits around a semi-circle of tables in Council Chambers for their June meeting.

The Nome Port Commission moved last night to explore funding possibilities for a new waste incinerator. Specifically designed to process waste from foreign ships, the incinerator would be located at the Nome Municipal Landfill.

Commissioner Scott Henderson liked the idea, saying the incinerator would expand the services offered by the Port of Nome and bring in new revenue:

“It sounds like there’s a need for it. We’ve got these half a dozen cruise ships coming in, that stuff needs to be treated differently than all of the other domestic stuff. Obviously, we’re generating additional income from these ships by accepting it. I think it’s kind of all what we’re trying to pursue.”

Vice-Chair Charlie Lean agreed, adding that environmentally it’s “the right thing to do.”

Bristol Engineering in Anchorage has proposed designing the incinerator. But to build it, the City will need to find a way to pay. The Port Commission voted unanimously to pursue opportunities for funding.

Also discussed at the meeting: the possible effects of using chemicals to disperse oil in the water after a fuel spill. The Coastal Response Research Center is seeking public comment on dispersant use in the Arctic and reached out to the Port Commission for their input.

Commissioners Lean and Gay Sheffield shared their perspectives as biologists on possible consequences of dispersant use in the food chain—and to the humans that subsist on marine resources. But they both said research in the area is lacking.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jereme Altendorf was in attendance. The Coast Guard has the authority to deploy dispersants in the event of a spill, but he assured the commission that would only happen after careful consideration:

“It’s a very specific set of circumstances offshore, and very specific set of circumstances of spilled fuel, and after consultation with a myriad of federal agencies and resource trustees.”

And, Port Director Joy Baker announced a new wave buoy will arrive in Nome in early July, aboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather.

A collaboration with the Alaska Ocean Observing System, the buoy will provide real-time data on waves and currents, freely available to all online, including on the Port of Nome website.

Harbormaster Lucas Stotts says it will make things easier for both port users and port staff:

“It’ll be a great tool for our marine pilots bringing in tankers and cruise ships, even just the barge guys. Instead of calling me and saying, ‘Hey what’s it doing at the docks?’, it’s going to be very easy. They can see exactly what cross-currents they’re working with, everything.”

The Port Commission will meet next on July 19th. Before then, Port Director Baker will testify in Washington in front of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Lisa Murkowski. The topic: data and ocean economy.

Image at top: the Nome Port Commission at their regular meeting in June 2018. Photo: Zoe Grueskin, KNOM.