Port of Nome hires McDowell Group for port expansion research

Aerial view of Nome’s port. (Photo: Joy Baker/Nome Port Director)
Aerial view of Nome’s port. (Photo: Joy Baker/Nome Port Director)

Updating and streamlining the strategic plan for Nome’s port expansion was the theme of the hour-long work session that preceded last week’s Port Commission meeting.

Joining the session via phone were Susan Bell and Garrett Evridge from the McDowell Group, a research and consulting firm based in Anchorage.

For a price tag of over $23,000 the McDowell Group has been hired by the Port of Nome for their “professional services” over the span of 70 to 90 days. So what exactly have they been hired to do? That was one of the questions some port commissioners raised at the start of last week’s work session.

“I’m confused, or a little bit vague on what’s the final product that you believe you’re going to produce,” admitted port commissioner Charlie Lean.

Bell explained to Lean and other curious commissioners that they were planning a “streamlined approach” to how information about the port expansion is distributed. The McDowell Group will author a white paper, put together an informational brochure, and formulate a power point presentation that the port will be able to use when the expansion project is presented to the Civil Works Review board in Washington D.C. in mid-November.

Bell and Evridge called upon the commissioners for input on what to emphasize in those materials. Lean was the first to respond, suggesting the McDowell group focus more on what benefits an expanded port will have on the region and not just Nome. Newly appointed commissioner Megan Alvanna-Stimple reiterated his point.

“It’s important to highlight the international [and] national Arctic issues, but it’s not as concrete,”Alvanna-Stimple said. “People don’t know how to think about that yet, and I think our strongest point that we can make is that we serve Western Alaska, and that’s why this investment is critical.”

Alvanna-Stimpfle pointed out that Nome’s port serves over one hundred communities, and urged the McDowell Group to highlight its role in the region’s economic viability.

It will change the paradigm for how freight is delivered and the way we live in Western Alaska and that’s something concrete and real and is a crisis.”

With more work sessions planned for the future, the scope of the ports expansion is still unclear, leaving the future of freight transport throughout Western Alaska in limbo.

Following the work session, the lack of any new or old business on the agenda for last week’s Port Commission meeting allowed for a quick run through of updates from City Manager Tom Moran and Port Director Joy Baker. The next Port Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday Nov. 19.

Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer.

Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF.

Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about.

Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.

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