Matt Ganley, BSNC Vice President, Media and External Affairs
The United States Congress passed legislation on Feb. 1, 2016 which included language that authorized the transfer of Port Clarence to BSNC, the State of Alaska and the U.S. Coast Guard. President Obama signed the legislation into law on Feb. 8. The bill was sponsored by Congressman Duncan Hunter (R – California) and had the support of Congressman Young, Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan. One goal of the law is to facilitate infrastructure development and potential uses of Point Spencer, adjacent to Port Clarence, Alaska. Subtitle C of Title V specifically conveys portions of the 2,400 acre tract at Point Spencer to BSNC and the State of Alaska.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) will retain a portion of the land for the continuance of their Arctic Marine and Air operations. The law also allows the establishment of a public/private partnership among BSNC, the USCG and the State of Alaska. The language authorizing conveyance of the Point Spencer lands was originally introduced by Congressman Don Young in May of 2014 as H.R. 4668, and was later added to the 2015 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act. At the time Mr. Young introduced H.R. 4668, he said, “I am proud to be joined by my friend Congressman Duncan Hunter, the Chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, in introducing legislation to provide the means necessary for future use and development of Point Spencer by federal, state, and private sector stakeholders. We are desperately in need of development in the region, particularly as activity in the Arctic continues to increase, and this bill establishes a path forward for a variety of necessary tasks and missions, including search and rescue operations, shipping safety, economic development, oil spill prevention and response, port development and refuge, arctic research, and maritime law enforcement.”
“With the recent progress the state has made on the law, Alaska Arctic Policy Commission’s implementation plan, BSNC feels the bill will begin to move our Region and State towards a promising Arctic future,” said BSNC President & CEO Gail R. Schubert. “I believe that Port Clarence is going to positively contribute to sustainable economic growth in the BSNC region.”
Development of Port Clarence would occur with minimal dredging, minor marine disturbance, little impact to subsistence harvests and no required maintenance dredging. Furthermore, to support the report’s concept of private development, BSNC has been approached by numerous private entities interested in partnering in development of Port Clarence.
BSNC and the City of Nome recently co-authored a letter to Alaska Governor Walker advocating for a dual port approach to infrastructure in the Bering Strait region. Nome and Port Clarence each provide strategic and economic advantages that together can help to meet the critical infrastructure needs of the region. The letter stressed that the Port of Nome and Port Clarence should not be viewed as competitive projects. The letter also asked that the criteria data gathered under the Arctic port system study, co-sponsored by the State of Alaska and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), to be constructively utilized to move both projects forward on their respective timelines, avoiding any delay in the development of both Nome and Port Clarence.