Nome's iconic Cold War radar towers may soon be history

AL GRILLO / AP file photo

The long-unused White Alice radar towers on Nome's Anvil Mountain -- visible from almost everywhere in the Western Alaska hub for more than 50 years -- have become aviation navigation aids and even the site of weddings. The Air Force, which is in the process of cleaning up chemical contamination at the Cold War-era site, had planned to tear down the towers, which have asbestos backing, The Nome Nugget reports. But many in Nome want to see the towers remain, and they're trying to work out a compromise.

From The Nugget: Sitnasuak Native Corp., which has selected the land under Native claims and wants to take documented ownership, intends to decide the fate of the towers in two weeks. ... Before the land can transfer to Sitnasuak, it must pass through the federal Bureau of Land Management, the agency that sorts out claims in certain land disposals.

The BLM will not accept the site while it is contaminated, and that includes the towers whose back, flat sides contain asbestos. Even with the USAF paying for cleanup, Sitnasuak might be left with annual maintenance costs to pass onto shareholders. Without a solution to keep them standing, the antennas block the land transfer to Sitnasuak, and what many see as a valuable historical heirloom could disappear.

One proposed solution would be letting the Air Force put the asbestos in a special disposal cell at the city dump; the savings could be used to install a new backing on the radar towers that would prevent them from rusting out and keep them standing.

The Nugget's piece is the first of two that delves extensively into the history of the White Alice system. Read more about White Alice here.