Nome Seeks $38.5-Million For Proposed Year-Round Port

Plans are on the drawing board to construct a modern port in Nome, Alaska.

The city is asking the state legislature to appropriate $38.5 million for construction of a medium draft port near the mouth of the Snake River. The project is the number one priority for marine construction in northern Alaska, according to State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities official Jonathan Widdis.

The facilities will eliminate the need to transfer freight at sea to smaller coastal barges to bring it ashore. Today the cost of "lighterage" is about 25 percent of the freight cost from Seattle.

The port layout, prepared by the engineering firm Tippetts-Abbett-McCarthy - Stratton (TAMS), features a 3,600-foot rubble mound causeway leading to an offshore terminal. Short-term storage and marshaling areas will be available at the seaward end, with about 60 acres onshore for container and general cargo storage. Additional piers and service areas can be added as needed for offshore oil company activities year-round. The causeway can be extended another 1,000 to 1,500 feet to provide berths for bulk ore carriers.

With potential year-round use in mind, along with the need to keep maintenance and construction costs at a minimum, engineers have designed an ice-resistant causeway that also will withstand the strong erosive forces of Norton Sound's high winds and waves during late summer and autumn storms.

The causeway's design is based in part on studies conducted by the Institute of Hydraulics Research of the University of Iowa. A model of the causeway was placed in a 60-foot by 20-foot tank where sheets of ice were pushed up against it.

A major objective was to develop a way to prevent the ice from overriding the causeway.

The tests showed that, despite the special sloping design created for the sides of the causeway, ice still moved over the model.

As a result, TAMS project manager Michael Horton said the design philosophy is now one of management rather than prevention.

"The causeway is designed to accommodate ice override as an occasional event," he said.

This will be done by building the sides at a slope. One side will be built higher than the other, so that ice override can be bulldozed off. "The cost savings of this system over an elaborate ice prevention scheme are substantial," Mr. Horton said.

To help prevent the causeway from eroding, large boulders will be placed on the slopes to act as breakwater barriers. Testing at the University of Florida will tell engineers more about the size of boulders needed to help stabilize the slopes, but Mr.

Horton estimated rocks as large as 20 tons will be used.

The dock will be built with circular concrete caissons. Thirty of the large tub-shaped forms will be barged from the Lower 48 and sunk into place at the seaward end of the causeway to form the dock face. The circular caissons will stand up better than the traditional box-shaped forms under the direct stress of the waves.

Another feature of the causeway design is the inclusion of a "fish breach": a small bridge near the shoreline to permit salmon and other species of fish to migrate freely.

Preliminary studies are complete and final design work was recently submitted to city officials by TAMS. If the legislature approves the requested $38.5-million for construction, the port project could go to bid during late summer, 1983, according to Nome city manager Ivan Widom.

Other stories from January 15, 1983 issue


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