“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.”

That’s Nome Mayor John Handeland speaking.

Congress authorized the plans for a deep draft port in Nome last month, and the President approved the project. The port’s two-year long design phase is expected to start by March.

The port is expected to strengthen national security in the Arctic, given its strategic location on the Pacific Rim. The port is also expected to reduce shipping costs and make access to cargo and fuel cheaper for Western Alaska communities.

The expansion would roughly double the length of the port’s west causeway and add a nearly 1,400-foot breakwater with three large vessel docks in deep water. The project price 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 still responsible for a staggering $126,325,000.

Joy Baker, Nome’s port director, emphasized the money is not immediately coming from local taxpayers’ coffers. She said a majority of the money will come from project partners.

Baker also said, “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.”

The plan was approved as the Navy announced a new strategic plan focused on Arctic presence. The document cites a change in diminishing sea ice that has brought new ships and global engagement in the Arctic.
The US Secretary of the Navy, Kenneth Braithwaite, said “Russia has remilitarized the Arctic; China has recommitted itself to build icebreakers to be able to move its product from its homeland to Western markets in half the amount of time than it historically had to. So, the United States Navy is committed to being present in the Arctic in a much more visible way than we have historically been.”

Image at top: A model rendering of what a potential Arctic deep draft port in Nome will look like. Graphic from Joy Baker with the Port of Nome, used with permission (2019).

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