First oil spill response drill planned near Nome

NOME (AP) — An oil spill response drill is set to take place at Port Clarence northwest of Nome on Wednesday in a region where industrial projects are proposed.

Spill response company Alaska Chadux is among those participating in the exercise near Teller and Brevig Mission, KNOM reported.

“It’s a new place for an exercise like this,” said Chadux general manager Matt Melton. “Obviously the remoteness of Nome and Teller and Brevig brings some different challenges.”

The goal is to deploy equipment from Nome to Teller over the 72-mile road connecting the two communities. Participants will put deflection boom on the Port Clarence side to simulate a fuel spill and try to keep it out of Grantley Harbor, Melton said.

Other participants are the Alaska Department of Conservation, and Gay Sheffield, a marine biologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks marine advisory program.

The conservation department considers the drill a small-scale version of a larger exercise the agency would like to try in a year. The idea is to get a better sense of how far or close stakeholders actually are in case of an industrial accident near the Bering Strait.

Sheffield, who is volunteering to observe wildlife during Wednesday’s drill, said the exercise will help establish the degree of readiness in the region.

“It’s a win-win: if the drill is a success then we’ll know we have that much capability to deflect, or remove, or collect any kind of pollution in the water,” she said. “If it’s not a success then we’ll know that we need more, and we’ll be able to say that — we’ll be able to say this wasn’t successful and we need more equipment, or attention, or a better way to do it.”

John Kotula with the conservation department said participants will be drawing on local knowledge to better assess areas deemed important for economic and historical purposes.

The exercise comes amid proposed industrial projects covering an area that Teller and Brevig Mission residents rely on for subsistence.

A deep water port for vessels in Arctic waters could be developed at Port Clarence. Other possible projects being looked at in the region are a potential graphite mine and a gold-dredging operation.

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