WATER AND SEWER— Utility Manager Ken Morton presents on the future of Nome’s water and sewer facilities at the Mini Convention Center February 13.

NJUS plans for Nome’s future growth

Nome Joint Utility held a kickoff meeting for the water and sewer master plan update last Tuesday in the Mini Convention Center.
The community was invited to share their thoughts and questions about the future of water and sewer in Nome.
Community members, city staff, Norton Sound Regional Hospital staff, a representative from Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, NJUS staff and engineers working on the project were all present for the open house or meeting on February 13.
NJUS is a component unity of the City of Nome, financially and operationally independent but with budget approval from the Nome Common Council. Each year NJUS provides about $750,000 to the city via taxes and sales tax.
Operationally, NJUS makes enough revenue to stay on top of maintenance but not enough to support system expansion or many facility replacement projects, making the utility reliant on grants and loans from outside entities to fund projects, according to NJUS Utility Manager and Engineer Ken Morton.
The last master plan, presented in 2017, identified six major expansion-related projects for the utility to take on in a five-year timespan at a cost of almost $60 million.
“Because of the fiscal climate at the time, we weren’t getting money to do much of anything, so there was no vision of expansion,” Morton explained during his presentation.
The projects that did take place, like the Moonlight Springs re-pressurization and aerator replacement at the sewage lagoon in 2023 and the River Street Lift Station upgrade in 2021, were funded by Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation grants. Water and sewer replacement on Bering Street in 2021 was funded by loans from the state and done in conjunction with Department of Transportation construction and rehabilitation of Bering Street.
“Going forward, it’s time to take a wider look instead of just rehabilitation work, which is clearly needed, and start seeking out opportunities to grow with our water and wastewater systems,” Morton said.
Morton laid out the goals for this masterplan, funded by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium: Assess what is needed to keep the current system running, establish what the utility is working toward so it can grow efficiently with Nome and look at what the Environmental Protection Agency will be establishing as policy for water and wastewater management.

Potential Growth
Beginning in the greater Satellite Field area, Morton explained the potential for development and expansion of water and sewer. With fairly stable ground, conducive to neighborhood development in a grid network of streets and its proximity to Moonlight Springs, it’s a reasonable place for Nome to expand to, Morton said. The area potentially outlined is about the same size as the current main town area of Nome and encompasses where gold and gravel mines currently operate.
 With most of the land owned by Arctic Gold and Bering Straits Native Corporation, the property owners would need to be interested in the project, NJUS hopes to connect with these entities to talk about the future of the land.
Other areas for potential growth include the land west of the Nome-Teller Highway between the Alaska Commercial store and Icy View and locations within town where vacant lots haven’t had water and sewer installed. Water is easy, Morton said, sewer is what needs to be planned out more thoughtfully, which is why the utility is hoping to hear from and work with landowners and entities interested in expansion.  

Planned Construction
The utility has a couple smaller expansion projects scheduled in 2024. Norton Sound Health Corporation is funding construction on East N Street to reroute some of their wastewater. In a federally grant-funded project, the Village of Solomon and King Island Native Corporation will extend water and sewer to lots on East Sixth Avenue, close to Greg Kruschek Avenue.
In the absence of funding, most projects will focus on system improvements and loan dollars will pay for the construction. “We wouldn’t have chosen to do the project on Bering Street,” Morton explained “But because DOT had a road project that really forced our hand. So we went to the effort of getting loan dollars, and our small rate base of 3,500 people is going to be making payments on those loans for a 20-year period.”
In 2028 DOT is scheduled to do construction on Front Street and the utility plans to do water and sewer replacement at the same time, which will likely be paid for by another loan.
As the Port of Nome expansion project construction begins, NJUS will install a circulating water system that extends the length of the port, which will make water available to visiting vessels year-round if desired. NJUS is also planning to install piping and vaults for wastewater collection in the future, but no pumps and treatment, so if the city decides it wants to collect waste from boats in the future it could do so.

Planning Commission
City Manager Glenn Steckman asked Morton if he could present to the Planning Commission, as the panel is currently planning to rezone Front Street and will begin to talk about an updated comprehensive plan for the city. Steckman said the goal right now is to fill development within downtown Nome to take advantage of viable land near sewer lines, before thinking about more expansion.  Morton agreed and said he would gather information on gaps in the downtown that aren’t currently being served by the utility.
Next steps will be to begin outlining the master plan with the help of ANTHC, using their preliminary engineering report model, which will help the utility get a better idea of how funding for major capital projects will go.
 

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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