Admiral Ostebo Discusses Future of Port Clarence

The U.S. Coast Guard owns Port Clarence, and many entities want a piece of the property, but the Coast Guard intends to hold on to at least some of the real estate.

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As marine traffic escalates through the Bering Strait, the passage is gaining global prominence. And nearby on the Seward Peninsula sits Port Clarence, one of Alaska’s few naturally deep water ports.

The Coast Guard owns the real estate—around 2,500 acres— and was set to divest the property after the site’s LORAN station shutdown in 2010. However, Coast Guard Admiral Thomas Ostebo visited Nome recently and said with the port’s strategic proximity to the Arctic and Bering Strait, the branch is keeping some of the land.

“The Coast Guard would like to retain a portion of that property as a hedge for you all, for the federal government, for the people of the U.S. to have a piece of property that’s right adjacent to what could become the most important international strait north of the Panama Canal,” Ostebo said.

The Coast Guard isn’t the only entity interested in Port Clarence. Ostebo says federal agencies, the state, corporations, and industries all want a piece of the property. One of those parties is the Bering Straits Native Corporation. Matt Ganley, BSNC Vice President of Resources and External Affairs, says the Corporation claimed the land in 1977 under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and the property is one of the final pieces to the Corporation receiving full entitlement.

Ostebo says the Coast Guard will be divesting an undetermined amount of Port Clarence, but couldn’t provide a timeline. He is encouraging interested parties to negotiate agreements amongst themselves before approaching the Coast Guard with an offer.

“My number one objective is that at the end of the day, everybody wins. And I think there’s an everybody wins solution here with the Coast Guard retaining a piece, the state getting a piece, industry maybe getting a piece, other federal agencies getting a piece,” Ostebo said. “And it’s going to take a while.”

In the mean time, Ostebo says the site is well preserved and in working order.

This summer the Coast Guard will station a patrol boat at the port to monitor Bering Sea waters, respond to offshore incidents, and assist with local vessel boardings.

Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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