Port panel discusses spending of grant money
The Port of Nome Commission met July 21 to consider how to spend remaining grant funds for further development.
Out of a general obligation bond for $10 million provided to the port some years back, approximately $1.4 million remains, according to Joy Baker, port director.
She had been meeting with Tom Moran, city manager, and Lucas Stotts, harbor master, to discuss the best use of the money, she said. They had come up with additional dredging of the Snake River at Port of Nome and using the spoils for filling Thornbush Subdivision, a port expansion on the uplands. Both operations were eligible for spending the bond money, Baker told the port commission.
The port panel discussed evening out the west shoreline of Belmont point to keep silt moving through the channel and dredging a patch on the west side of the river to a shallower depth, also to guide the silt through the channel towards the sea.
The dredging depth had to be gauged by need, according to PND consultants attending the meeting, to keep the main flow going and not drop out where it would become a problem by piling up. The panel agreed on a need to canvass users for ways to make the port work better. Engineers advised keeping clear of widening the channel. That would slow down the water velocity allowing sediment to drop out. Keeping the river channelized would keep the flow going a good clip and sediment suspended.
The river dredging could not go too shallow, according to Ken Hughes from the audience and a member of the Nome Planning Commission, because a north wind could blow the water out.
“It doesn’t happen much, but get a stiff north wind and you are looking at mud,” he said.
The port is permitted by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to go to minus 8 feet, but ACOE was reluctant to allow the dredging to go below minus 8 ft., according to Baker.
Hughes had another idea.
“If you go to minus eight feet, we have longer before we need to go to some sort of maintenance,” he said.
PND staff agreed. “If you over dredge, the time before maintenance should be extended,” they said.
Commissioner Charlie Lean advised going all the way. “I’m in favor of full depth the first dig,” he said, “rather than the layering effect.” Lean explained that doing minus six feet then minus eight feet would put the excavator over a springy diving board the second time.
The products of dredging the river, whatever the depth, will go to fill the Thornbush Subdivision that will add storage and laydown space at the port. Commissioner Doug Johnson advised surveying the depth of the channel before any dredging to keep the channel flowing without sediment deposits and enlarging small craft refuge on the river.
The commission was of the opinion that they would not fill to support a tank farm, lest the entire dredge fill be absorbed to that end, but to make it understood that anyone wanting to build a tank farm would have to provide their own fill.
The commission reached consensus on applying the $1.4 million to dredging the river and beginning development of Thornbush Subdivision, all except Commissioner Tony Cox who wanted to hold out for more discussion on prioritizing future projects.
The commission had started down the road a couple of meetings ago, considering other projects, but had not concluded the discussion, Cox said.
“My concern is that we don’t have near-term issues that need to be addressed before we put all the money into Thornbush Subdivision,” Cox explained.
Not all the possible projects would qualify for the bond money, Baker said.
Lean suggested that in consideration of Cox’s concerns, the panel have a list of all projects on the table at the next port meeting on Aug. 18.