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Federal Funds Pay for Port of Nome, Other Major Projects

Jan 25, 2022 | Construction, Engineering, Government, News

Port of Nome

Andrew Kazmierski | Dreamstime

Major construction projects in Alaska get an infusion of nearly $1 billion in federal funds. The US Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District received authorization and funding for an array of civil works.

Building Up, Dredging Out

Following the recent enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, the Alaska District’s Civil Works Program was awarded $940.7 million that covers the federal cost share of selected projects.

“We are on the frontlines of an evolving world, and Alaska is an integral state to the success of our nation,” says Colonel Damon Delarosa, commander of the Alaska District. “These newly allocated funds allow us to continue to build a stronger Alaska through deeds, not words.”

The IIJA is steering $250 million to complete the preconstruction, engineering, and design phase as well as the first phase of construction for the Port of Nome Modification. In partnership with the City of Nome, the Corps of Engineers has been designing modifications to alleviate existing vessel restrictions that are imposed by insufficient channel depths and limited harbor space. The construction project aims to provide larger vessels improved access to Nome’s existing harbor by enlarging the outer basin and creating a new deep-water basin with a depth of minus 40 feet. Dredging would be required to deepen and maintain both basins and associated navigation channels. Currently, ship transportation is limited by existing depths in the outer basin of minus 22 feet. This depth is inadequate to safely accommodate vessels of drafts greater than about 18 feet.

The expansion would give Nome the only deep-draft port in the US Arctic region, slightly south of the Arctic Circle. Currently, the nearest deep-water port is at Dutch Harbor, so that is the point of departure for Coast Guard icebreakers patrolling the Arctic Ocean.

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Other civil works projects that receive funding allocations from the IIJA are as follows:

Lowell Creek Flood Diversion Project – The district’s plan to construct a new flood diversion system for Lowell Creek in Seward is now funded with $185.2 million. Upgrades include a new 18-foot diameter tunnel and diversion dam upstream from the current tunnel; refurbishment to the existing tunnel; extension of the outfall by 150 feet to carry stream flow and debris over Lowell Point Road; and a canopy to protect the tunnel inlet from landslides. The plan also calls for the removal of select trees that could block the tunnel if swept into the creek during a flood event. The existing flood diversion system in Lowell Creek Canyon does not adequately manage high-water events and presents a risk to public safety, property, and critical infrastructure with little to no warning.

Moose Creek Dam Safety Modification Project – The second construction phase is now funded with about $88.6 million in new allocations for the Chena Flood Control Project’s Moose Creek Dam near North Pole. In 2021, the initial portion of construction for the dam safety modification project was funded at $59.2 million. Last August, a contract valued at about $36 million was awarded to the Bauer Foundation Corp. of Florida to begin constructing a mix-in-place concrete barrier wall at the dam that spans 6,200 linear feet at depths of up to 65 feet. This project stems from a 2017 modification study that recommended the establishment of a reinforced dam embankment to extend the life of the aging infrastructure and provide the greater Fairbanks region with protection during high-water events for many years to come. The dam will continue to operate and regulate the flow of the Chena River as needed while construction is underway. Referred to as a “mega project,” it will be the largest Corps of Engineers civil works construction effort in Alaska since the completion of the Snettisham Hydroelectric Project near Juneau. Construction is expected to start in the spring of 2022.

Kenai River Bluffs Erosion Project – A protective berm along the Kenai Bluffs located near the city of Kenai is funded at about $28 million to cover the preconstruction, engineering, and design phase as well as the construction phase. In 2019, the Corps of Engineers published the Kenai Bluffs Bank Stabilization Section 116 Feasibility Study that recommended the establishment of a protective berm at the bluff toe. The project will provide a berm that stretches about 5,000 feet along the base of the eroding bluff. It will require the placement of about 42,400 cubic yards of armor rock, 33,200 cubic yards of crushed rock, and 13,100 cubic yards of gravel base. The new infrastructure is designed to shield the lower portion of the bluff from storm damage and prevent the removal of accumulated sediment between the toe and the berm. The local non-federal sponsor is the City of Kenai, which is covering a portion of the costs for this federally constructed coastal storm risk management project.

Controlling Erosion

Barrow, Alaska

The coast of Utqiaġvik, Alaska.

Chris Boswell | Dreamstime

Through the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, construction of the Barrow Alaska Coastal Erosion Project in Utqiaġvik is fully funded, with federal dollars at about $364.3 million. The community experiences frequent and severe coastal storms, resulting in flooding and erosion that threaten public health and safety, the economy of the community, critical infrastructure valued at more than $1 billion, and access to subsistence areas, as well as cultural and historical resources. The project will reduce the risk of storm damage to about 5 miles of coastline by constructing a rock revetment at the bluff area, building a protective berm, and raising Stevenson Street.

Another $25 million in infrastructure funds will be used to restore the main road in Denali National Park where a landslide blocked tour bus traffic last summer.

Improvements to the South Harbor in Petersburg get $6.3 million for preconstruction, engineering, and design, and another $1 million goes to the Northwest Alaska village of Elim for its first boat harbor.

Continued funding in the amount of $17.1 million will support operations and maintenance, such as annual dredging at the Ninilchik and St. Paul Harbors and upkeep of the Chena Lakes River Lakes Flood Control Project.

The district’s Civil Works Branch continues the task of completing other important work such as the design for Craig Harbor and Dutch Harbor Channels.

“Through strong partnerships and hard work, we will continue to collaborate with community stakeholders to deliver critical infrastructure for the state,” says Bruce Sexauer, chief of the Alaska District’s Civil Works Branch. “Further developing these civil works projects will improve safety, security and commerce to our communities and the nation.”

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The track of oil and gas development in Alaska shows the footprints of bold companies and hard-working individuals who shaped the industry in the past and continue to innovate today. The May 2024 issue of Alaska Business explores that history while looking forward to new product development, the energy transition for the fishing fleet, and the ethics of AI tools in business.

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