As the project to expand the Port of Nome moves forward, the Nome Port Commission discussed funding and design issues at its April meeting.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing the $250 million for the port expansion, but that money will only come if Nome can contribute $83 million to the project by November, according to Bradners’ Alaska Economic Report. The city also needs to contribute another $92 million “for local build-out of support facilities.”

Nome’s pockets aren’t deep enough to pay the required amount itself, and the city doesn’t have the borrowing power to borrow the money, City Manager Glenn Steckman said. So the city has been applying for grants and seeking other sources of funding. In April, the city applied for two Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE, grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation, to fund the development of the Thornbrush site and local services facilities in the port as part of the overall project.

Nome Mayor John Handeland and Port Director Joy Baker recently traveled to Juneau to request funding from the state. Gov. Dunleavy wants to support the project, but the city is still waiting to hear how much the Alaska Legislature will commit, Steckman said.

Steckman also brought up potential partnerships with private corporations.

“We’ve had Quintillion, which was a very public letter that was put into the council’s packet wanting to discuss fiber. And obviously, if Graphite One moves forward — which it does seem to be very positive because of the national need for graphite — I’m sure there will be a discussion with them down the road,” he said.

On the design side, the port commission considered several fender designs for the new dock. Fenders are the cushions that prevent ships and docks from damaging each other. The fenders need to be able to withstand repeated freezing and thawing of the Bering Sea. The commission voted for an option that includes both permanent pile fenders and removable foam-filled fenders.

The three-phase port expansion project is still in the design stage of phase 1. The design stage is scheduled to conclude in January 2023, with construction beginning in September 2023.

The Port Commission will meet next on Thursday, May 19.

Image at top: PND’s updated model rendering for the design of a potential Arctic Deep Draft Port in Nome. Photo from Port of Nome, used with permission (2020).