Keeping Nome like no other place

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Hobbie, chief of contingency planning and force readiness, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, gives a presentation on oil spill response for residents of the Nome Eskimo community along with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation at the comunity center in Nome, Alaska, Sept. 27, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Colclough.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Hobbie, chief of contingency planning and force readiness, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, gives a presentation on oil spill response for residents of the Nome Eskimo community along with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation at the comunity center in Nome, Alaska, Sept. 27, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Colclough.

Story and photos by Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Colclough

As maritime traffic increases in the Arctic, the dangers of an oil spill creep closer to the “Anvil City.” To keep Nome ready if disaster strikes, members of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage along with representatives of partner federal and state of Alaska agencies conducted the Northwest Arctic Sub Area Committee Meeting Sept. 27 and took part in the 17th Coast Guard District-hosted Alaska Regional Response Team meeting Sept. 28. Sector Anchorage personnel from contingency planning and incident management took to the airwaves at KNOM Radio the day before the meeting to get the word out to residents.

Held at the Mini-Convention Center, committee co-chairs with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Interior delivered presentations and remarks on oil spill response, contamination cleanup organizations and geographical response strategies, to name a few.

“One of the things we did before we went to the meeting is we started reaching out to the local community to update community profiles,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Hobbie, chief of contingency planning and force readiness, Sector Anchorage. “We want local input because the folks who live in that area and tribal organizations know the northwest Arctic better than anyone.”

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Hobbie, chief of contingency planning and force readiness, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, gives a presentation on oil spill response for residents of the Nome Eskimo community along with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation at the comunity center in Nome, Alaska, Sept. 27, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Colclough.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Hobbie, chief of contingency planning and force readiness, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, gives a presentation on oil spill response for residents of the Nome Eskimo community along with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation at the comunity center in Nome, Alaska, Sept. 27, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Colclough.

According to Hobbie, helping remote communities update their area contingency plans and community profiles is a critical first step toward disaster prevention and response.

“The next step for us is to take what we learned in that meeting and incorporate that into the plan,” Hobbie said. “We were very pleased with the welcome that we were extended by the community in Nome and their participation in the meeting; their questions and comments will help inform the revision of this plan.”

Citizens of the Nome Eskimo Community, the NANA Regional Corporation and various stakeholders with the Defenders of Wildlife and the University of Alaska Fairbanks engaged in an open forum of discussions with the sub area committee panel members.

Like its sister city to the southeast Valdez, Nome is isolated and far removed from the support infrastructure needed to respond to a major oil spill. Additional meetings and closer coordination on plans are scheduled in the upcoming year. The top of the agenda is keeping Nome like no other place.

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