$618M AK Port Approved by Corps
At the beginning of the month, United States Army Corps of Engineers commander Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite approved a $618 million plan to expand the Port of Nome in Nome, Alaska.
The Port of Nome Modification Feasibility Study is the latest in a series of proposals over the past decade to upgrade the Alaskan maritime facilities.
Port Expansion Project
Back in 2015, the Corps issued a $210 million plan involving dredge work to accommodate larger vessels and expanding the protected water area at the Port of Nome in wake of an ongoing a $7 billion Chukchi oil exploration effort headed by Royal Dutch Shell PLC.
However, the same year the Corps announced their port expansion plan, Shell announced that the exploration effort had failed, causing the company to scrap its offshore Arctic drilling program. As a result of the project’s cancellation, Nome’s port expansion was also canceled.
In 2016, Congress broadened the scope of the port’s potential benefits to include the viability of regions. Previously, the project only examined direct and immediate cost-benefits.
In the latest look at the port’s possible modifications, the Corps released a draft feasibility study in December 2019. The plan calls for roughly doubling the length of the port’s existing west causeway to reach approximately 2,100 feet farther into Norton Sound with a nearly 1,400-foot breakwater to protect harbor entrance from incoming waves.
“We’ve developed a feasible engineering solution that provides safe, reliable and efficient navigation improvement to support a critical region of the state,” said Army Corps Alaska District Acting Commander Col. David Hibner in a statement.
To complete these upgrades and expand the port’s outer basin, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reports that existing east causeway-breaker would be demolished and replaced with a 3,900-foot causeway-breakwater. According to the study, approximately three-quarters of the material from the existing east causeway would be used to build its replacement.
The bigger outer port basin would also be dredged from its current depth of 22 feet to 28 feet. The L-shaped barrier is also expected to see various modifications, which will allow it to hold two new 450-foot and one new 600-foot dock to accommodate larger vessels.
A few months following the draft’s release, the 2020 American Water Infrastructure Act passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, containing language that assisted in expediting the project’s approval.
Totaling $618 million to complete, the Corps report that $386 million would be funded by the federal government for in-water dredging and construction, while the City of Nome would have to contribute nearly $123 million for the navigation features and another $128 million for local facility infrastructure, such as access roads, docks and utilities.
“There has been an Arctic awakening, there’s no doubt about it. It is across the board; Democrats, Republicans, Senate, House and it’s coming up all the time,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said.
Before the port expansion can officially progress, however, Congress still needs to appropriate funding for the federal portion of the project in a spending bill, regardless of its authorization through the noncontroversial water infrastructure bill.