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NEPA scoping meetings scheduled for Arctic Deep Draft Ports Navigation Improvements Feasibility Study

Published June 3, 2013

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Alaska District has scheduled three National Environmental Policy Act scoping meetings to receive comments for the district’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Arctic Deep Draft Ports Navigation Improvements Feasibility Study being conducted as a general investigation study.

Meetings are planned for Nome at 6 p.m. June 11 at Old St. Joe’s, Brevig Mission at 1 p.m. June 12 in the multipurpose room and Teller at 7 p.m. June 13 in the community/bingo hall.

The feasibility study resulted from a recommendation  in the final Alaska Deep Draft Arctic Port System Study published in March, and will be accomplished through a partnership between the Corps and Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Preparation of an EIS is one piece of the overall study, which also consists of economic analysis and engineering feasibility.

“This is an opportunity for the people in these communities who may be affected by this project to talk to the Corps,” said Lorraine Cordova, project manager of the port system study.

The Corps will look at the possibility of improving the navigation infrastructure in the vicinity of Norton Sound and the Bering Strait. The focus is on existing infrastructure in Nome, facilities that could be improved on in Point Spencer at Port Clarence and the potential for new construction at Cape Riley near Teller.

Of the 14 sites initially considered for infrastructure improvements in the port system study, the Nome and Port Clarence area rose to the top. They seemed to be the most likely sites for serving as deep draft harbors with their naturally deep waters and available upland support, Cordova said.

Facilities now in this region are inadequate for current and expected navigation demands of multinational, federal, state and local sea traffic. This could compromise safety, national security, commerce and oil spill response capability of the United States, she said.

“We want to identify a practicable and environmentally responsible solution to meeting these needs,” Cordova said.

The EIS will assess the potential for positive and negative effects of construction, operation and maintenance of marine infrastructure on the environment. Some of the issues to be addressed in the EIS include potential effects on air and water quality, threatened and endangered species, fish and wildlife resources, and historically significant properties, said Mike Salyer, environmental resources section chief.

The study also identifies structural, nonstructural and no-action alternatives, and the Corps welcomes thoughts on other alternatives as well as additional potential impacts to the environment, he said.

“The Corps is committed to ensuring the public has ample opportunity to participate in this review and will forward a summary of comments received from these meetings upon request,” Salyer said.

Public meetings are part of an effort to clarify issues associated with navigation in this area of Alaska. The Corps is also taking comments from federal agencies as well as state, local and tribal governments.

Teleconferencing and videoteleconferencing will be set up as available to accommodate people unable to attend.

A draft EIS is set to be published as soon as December. A 45-day comment period on the draft EIS is planned, which will include further public meetings to receive comments. The final EIS is scheduled for publication as early as November 2014.

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Curt Biberdorf

Release no. 13-026