Murkowski Stresses Need for Deep Water Port in the Arctic

“You Can’t Be An Arctic Participant Without A System of Ports”

Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) pressed Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, on the need for a deep water port in the Arctic region. During an Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee hearing focusing on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget request, Murkowski challenged officials for not funding the proposed port project in Nome, Alaska.

Murkowski asked, “When the President was up in Alaska in September, he announced the need for a deep water port that would be north of Dutch Harbor. Given the President’s support for this, why have we not included construction funding going forward in this next fiscal year?”

Assistant Secretary Darcy responded, “Since that time and since the President’s visit, we are now going to look at further scoping of that study, because it was limited to just some economics involving oil and gas, but there are other things that can be included in this. For instance, the Port of Nome may be considered a port of national significance in addition to the fact that it could possibly house the Coast Guard’s icebreaker in the future as well as other benefits that could be gotten from that.”


(Click image to watch video of Murkowski questioning Army Corps of Engineers on status of Nome port study.)

Murkowski said that while she supports increasing the potential scope of the Nome port study, she raised concerns that the Nome study was dependent on just one project.

“I do find it really quite surprising that the assessment for a port could have been built upon one project without recognition of the expanded role, the activities in the region. This is one of those areas where when you talk to the people, whether they are in Nome or anywhere south of that they say, ‘the Arctic is more than just oil and gas exploration. It’s more than just Shell up north.’ It is about having infrastructure to accommodate a dawning reality that it’s almost as if a new ocean has been discovered at the top of the globe,” Murkowski said.

Background: After beginning an initial study into the feasibility of expanding the Port of Nome, the Army Corps of Engineers put a pause on the study in October 2015 after Shell pulled out of the Arctic. In response, the Alaska Congressional Delegation sent a letter (attached) to President Obama, expressing strong concerns about the fate of the proposed deep water port in Nome and explaining the need for a deep water Arctic port.