December 2016 | Business View Magazine

78 79 pansion of the port facility, based on the ultimate function it will serve to support the military’s Arctic maritime fleets, life safety and environmental protection response assets, as well as our country’s national security. “If the stars align in Washington to support the develop- ment of an Arctic deep-draft port, I’d say it’s realistic that we could break ground in five years. Construction could probably be completed in two ice-free seasons, possibly three, if weather became a factor. It would depend on how much our ice-free periods continue to expand over the next five years. Our shoulder seasons are getting longer now. Fifteen years ago we would not see open water until mid-June and it would start freezing in November. We had open water offshore by May 1st this year, and that area we didn’t start freezing last year until December, with the ice not fully forming until January/February, essentially moving all winter and making it unsafe for ice fishing or traveling with snow machines or track rigs. Things are changing, for sure.” Preferred vendor n Bonanza Fuel, Inc. petroleum THe pOrt OF NOme Baker believes that it’s important that the work begin in Nome as soon as possible for several reasons. One is that the coastline needs to be protected in the event of a major disaster and Nome can pro- vide support for the maritime assets within range for any necessary search and rescue efforts. “Right now, we’re relying on who happens to be out on the water and need to reach out to Russia and Canada to help us respond on larger incidents,” she avers. Regarding Russia, Baker says that while President Putin is busy establishing Arctic seaports and building icebreakers in expectation of continued global warming, which will open up the region further to ocean-going vessels, the U.S. is still trying to eval- uate what may or may not be happening in the Arctic and whether it warrants substantial funding and call to action. “Our delegation is doing a wonderful job in getting more and more of their fellow members to understand that there’s a very large purpose and need for development here. It’s not just what’s going to benefit the community or the region. It’s the fact that Russia is stepping up their operations; it’s the protection of the country, the country’s resources, mariner’s lives, the culture, and our Arctic coastline,” she asserts.“But everything’s on the table, right now, until we get specific direction from the Corps on the re-scoping of the study. Everyone understands what needs to happen here, and we can only hope that everybody stays on the same road and understands how far behind we are.” Baker says that if none of the hoped-for progress occurs, the Port will simply “keep functioning as we function now, and continue to drive the discussion on achieving the project goal.” Meanwhile, she, and the rest of Nome’s 3,820 inhabitants, are all watching and waiting.“A great deal depends on what’s happening in the Arctic when Congress is look- ing at the document,” she says, finally.“There’s a lot of talk about what Russia is doing. Putin is developing a variety of deepwater ports; he’s moving forward. He’s not just sitting and thinking about it like the U.S. He’s expanding his fleet considerably and, I think, everything he does will eventually trigger a reaction to what ultimately comes of this large Corps project.”