The port is busy with gravel operations on the causeway and several visits from cruise ships. Pictured is a barge loaded with rock, with the cruiseship Roald Amundsen docked in the background, on Friday, August 18.

City of Nome seeks proposals for port expansion studies

The City of Nome hopes to begin construction to expand the Port of Nome next year. In the meantime, the city will fund a new set of studies to guide the development of the port and changes to its tariff rates, the Port Commission heard during its meeting last Wednesday, Aug. 16.
The two reports will be funded as part of phase 1 of the port expansion, and proposals are due Sept. 21.
Both studies will draw from similar information—vessel traffic, commodity movements and economic trends, among other sets of data. But the scope of each will be different. One will update the Port of Nome’s “Strategic Development Plan,” which hasn’t been updated since 2016. The other is a tariff rate study and analysis. Its purpose is to “evaluate previous assumptions, ensure validity, and to anticipate how the port structure changes will affect revenues and expenses into the future.”
The city hopes that the reports will be finished in March. The Strategic Development Plan Update will be put out for public review before it is finalized.
The local government and its federal partner in the port expansion project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are trying to finish some crucial steps in the next few weeks so that work can begin next year.
On Thursday, Aug. 24, the city will open proposals from Nome landowners offering property to host a temporary camp for 80 to 100 workers who will construct the port expansion. The city needs to secure land for the camp before the Corps puts out invitations for contractors to bid on the expansion project. The Nome Common Council members learned last week that the city is going to bear the cost of leasing that property, but this issue didn’t come up during last week’s Port Commission meeting.
The Corps is also trying to obtain a major environmental permit, an incidental harassment authorization for marine mammals, issued by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.
“We’re answering the last few questions they have and then we expect to be receiving approval in the coming weeks,” said Port Director Joy Baker said of that permitting process during the meeting.
Baker estimated that the project was 99 percent of the way finished with its design phase. She said the Army Corps was in the process of working through internal agency and technical review comments. “Probably early September, we should be nearing 100 percent,” Baker said.
The solicitation for contractors to bid on the project is now scheduled for Nov. 1, Baker said, with a contract signing in May.
“Obviously that’s if they don’t have any issues or need to extend it,” Baker said. “Hopefully everything will stay on track with that schedule and not change again.”

Port leadership succession
During the meeting, Commissioner Gay Sheffield raised a question about a project manager position to oversee the port expansion that was put in the Nome Common Council’s agenda and then withdrawn. Baker had announced her intention to retire from her port director position earlier this year. She was initially set to step down in May but now plans to leave the role Oct. 6. Baker will continue working with the city in a different capacity for another six months. But Baker argued that a discussion about that future role wasn’t appropriate for the Port Commission and turned the question over to City Manager Glenn Steckman, who oversees hiring for the city.
“The city manager’s office and city council wanted to hire a project manager to work with the Corps of Engineers to make sure the city’s interests are protected during the development of this project,” said Steckman. He said the contract would only be for 30 hours a week and it will end May 1, but he and Baker are still working out the details of that arrangement, which is why it was withdrawn.
“During this period, we will probably be looking for another project manager to be the city manager’s eyes on the project,” Steckman said. “This is actually for my benefit as the city manager and for the council’s benefit that we have eyes on our contractor.”
Meanwhile, the city continues its search for a new port director.

Harbormasters report
After a late sea-ice breakup, this year’s port operations got off to a late start. But now, Harbormaster Lucas Stotts said, operations are in full swing. The port is busy with gravel operations on the causeway and several visits from cruise ships, Stotts told the Port Commission. He wrote in his report that cargo operations have kept both the causeway and small boat harbor facilities busy.
On most days docks are full and there is a waiting list for dock access.
Stotts reported that the port had to undertake emergency repairs to fuel lines at the causeway that were losing thickness, but that work is now complete. He said he was also waiting for a break in the weather to finish work on the fuel lines under the causeway bridge that needed repairs.
“Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to us,” Stotts said. “We’re just waiting for it to quit blowing from the south for about a three-day period and we can see that happen.”
The next Port Commission meeting is scheduled for Sept. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

 

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762
USA

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

www.nomenugget.net

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