Feds grant Nome $11 million for port utilities
The Port of Nome received $11,250,000 in federal funding to help build new water, wastewater, fuel, power and communications infrastructure.
The grant is one of seven awards for Alaska port projects announced last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.
“Everything from the food we eat to the cars we drive to the lumber and steel used to build our homes passes through America’s ports, making them some of the most critical links in our nation’s supply chain,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in a statement announcing the grants. “These investments will help expand capacity and speed up the movement of goods through our ports, contributing to cleaner air and more good-paying jobs as we go.”
The improvements planned for Nome are intended to serve the utility needs of the Deep-Draft Arctic Port, the planned expansion of Nome’s current port.
The U.S. Army Corps’ construction on that massive project is supposed to begin next year.
The DOT announcement said that the infrastructure improvements it is funding will support “economic vitality by reducing pollution externalities from ship steaming and wastewater dumping.” It adds that these new capacities will help to improve efficiency of fuel barge delivery, cut turn-around times and leave dock space open in case of emergency.
Joy Baker, project manager for the Port of Nome, said that these utilities would be part of the City of Nome’s local service facilities. While the City of Nome and the Corps have a cost share agreement for the port expansion, the city is solely responsible for its onshore services like power and water.
Currently the port is limited in its capacity to provide marine utilities for visiting ships. For instance, Baker said that only small volumes of black water have been pumped off some of the smaller ships, typically USCG or NOAA ships. This service is provided by the local septic services provider, Suck-n-Shine Septic Pumping.
“There are no large quantities taken as the infrastructure has not been built yet,” Baker said.
The City of Nome aims to build an “Arctic Port Reception Facility.” Baker said the city has been applying for funds to cover the design and construction of such a facility as it is not part of the Corps’ project. Among its other features, this facility would have to include onshore treatment and handling facilities for wastewater, separate from Nome’s open-air sewage lagoon.
The $11 million granted are not meant for the Arctic Port Reception Facility design and construction; the city is still pursuing funding. A study identified that the port could ultimately receive two million gallons of wastewater once the onshore and offshore facilities are fully constructed, Baker said.
The Corps has yet to sign the project partnership agreement with the city, a next step needed to advance the port expansion. Once that deal is finalized, contractors will be invited to submit bids to work on Phase 1 of the project. Baker had previously said that the solicitation for bids was scheduled for Nov. 1, with a contract signing in May. While this solicitation timeline has now been delayed, Baker said she expects the contract award to happen on schedule.
Six other port projects in Alaska got a share of the $72 million in DOT funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was announced last week. The biggest grant, more than $43 million, will go towards the construction of a new dock in Cold Bay.
Nearly $2.5 million will go toward further analyses and investigations need to plan the Cape Blossom port project near Kotzebue. During a recent visit to Alaska, Buttigieg stopped in Kotzebue and toured the site of the potential Cape Blossom port.
“The purpose of the project is to assess the viability of developing the first U.S. deep-water port north of the Arctic Circle,” the DOT announcement said.
“If constructed the port would support economic vitality by making it easier and more cost-effective for vessel operators to call on Kotzebue, which raises the potential for increased vessel arrivals and related commercial activity.”