After years of waiting, the Arctic Deep Draft Port project in Nome was authorized by Congress on December 21st and is ready to move forward.

Included in the 2020 Water Resources Development Act that was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the Deep Draft Port project proposes plans for an extended west causeway and a new deep-water basin at Nome’s Port.

Mayor John Handeland says that getting the Congressional authorization for the project passes a major hurdle.

“We were excited that the Deep Draft Port [project] at Nome was included in the Water Resource Development Act bill that Congress recently passed. This project has been on the planning table and been advanced by the city for a decade, I would say, and getting over this hump is monumental for our area.”

– John Handeland

Now that the plan has been approved by Congress, Joy Baker, Nome’s Port Director, says the project now moves into the design phase and continues the quest for funding.

“Once the Alaska District is able to access their federal funds in the F21 Work Plan, we will move immediately into the design phase, that’s a two-year phase. We expect something between now and March. We’re hoping they will get their funds released and we’ll be able to start.”

– Joy Baker

The price for the project has increased to $505,233,000, compared to $490 million when the Army Corps of Engineers initially signed off on the plan last year.

The Corps will pay $378,908,000, leaving the city of Nome responsible for $126,325,000.

But Baker emphasizes that the money is not immediately coming from the coffers of taxpayers – a majority of the money will come from project partners, and now that the plan is authorized, the city can request grant money.

Some community members are concerned this project could have negative effects on the marine environment and local subsistence hunters. Kawerak,  Alaska’s Native regional tribal consortium, made no comment on the latest development but did release a statement about their concerns for the Deep Draft Port project last year. They recommended that more be done to enable subsistence hunters’ access to resources, limit negative effects on the environment, and keep the cost of living down in Nome.

Gail Schubert, President and CEO of Bering Straits Native Corporation, says that BSNC “whole-heartedly supports” the port project and trusts that the port will not greatly impact subsistence hunters and fishers.

“I think that the port location, or the location in and around Nome, has been used fairly regularly and substantially for the past several hundred years by people coming into Nome. I think that if there were going to be any sort of subsistence impact, it would have happened already, so I’m confident with the work that the Corps has done and that the port can be built out safely.”

– Gail Schubert

Baker also believes that Nome’s new port project will bring a lot of economic benefits for the region.

“I think the region could definitely benefit from the economic injection and boost that this would bring to jobs in the region. I see ten years down the road, a very bustling busy military facility that’s also supporting industry and providing jobs that are desperately needed in our region.”

– Joy Baker

The two-year design phase will begin in the spring of this year. After the design phase, the Nome Deep Draft Port project will move on to the construction phase.

Image at top: PND’s model rendering for the design of a potential Arctic Deep Draft Port in Nome. Photo from Port of Nome, used with permission (2019).

3 Comments

  1. Sue Steinacher on January 12, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    Housing housing housing! I’m afraid that in the case of the port expansion that a rising tide will not lift all boats. Plans and requirements need to be put into place right NOW that assure that the workers needed – up to 1,000 – to build this new port, do not reduce the already severely limited housing options in Nome, causing rents to rise even higher.

    Additionally, I find the statement that Nome needs more jobs inaccurate. Have you looked at the number of open positions currently at NSHC, and by other employers? Training local people for future jobs needs to start NOW, and not where testing if someone has smoked pot in the last 30 days makes them ineligible. People don’t realize that “local hire” means hiring from within the entire state, snd not just Nome or the Bering Strait Region.

    I believe the port can be a good thing for Nome’s future, but only if we take a realistic view of how to plan in a way that those already struggling in Nome, don’t sink even lower in options than they currently do.



  2. Richard L Sauer on January 15, 2021 at 9:04 am

    Has anyone checked out the population of Nome? Less than 4000 in 2018! That’s over $100,000/person.



  3. Lance E Robson on January 16, 2021 at 6:58 am

    Good comment about the cost per person. Even the local cost is over $30,000 per person. This is like the not-too-long-ago “bridge to nowhere”.