The Cape Blossom port in Kotzebue has been awarded a federal grant of over $2.4 million.
In the spring of 2023, the City of Kotzebue applied for the U.S. Department of Transportation Port Infrastructure Development Program for the planning phases of Cape Blossom Regional Port. On Nov. 3, the White House announced a total of $653 million in awards to fund port projects across the country, including the Cape Blossom project.
The $2,455,485 grant will go on conducting the planning phases, as well as the feasibility and cost analysis for the Cape Blossom port, which has been a regional priority since 1973, Kotzebue city officials said in a press release.
“This is a huge step for our region,” Kotzebue City Manager Tessa Baldwin said. “This funding will be used to develop Phase III of the port with the goal of lowering the cost of living for all residents.”
When completed, the port will be the first U.S. deep-water port north of the Arctic Circle. It will allow big barges to deliver larger loads of fuel and products to the city, potentially helping to reduce the freight cost and the overall cost of living. Right now, only shallow draft barges can transport goods to town from big ships that stop 15 miles offshore.
The new port can also help diversify the local economy, which is crucial for the city in light of the planned closure of the Red Dog Mine in 2031, City Mayor Saima Chase said.
Chase said that in previous years, some of the city’s funding requests for the port were denied. The local officials worked to adjust their strategy and broke down the large cost of the port into smaller pots of funding.
In August, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited Kotzebue during his infrastructure investment tour across Alaska. During his visit, Buttigieg toured the Cape Blossom Road, currently under construction, which leads to the future port. He spoke with local leaders about the importance of this infrastructure project in lowering the cost of shipping construction materials, consumer goods and mail.
Besides Cape Blossom, seven other ports in Alaska — in Wrangell, Yakutat, Nome, Seldovia, Metlakatla and Cold Bay — were selected for funding.
“Everything from the food we eat to the cars we drive to the lumber and steel used to build our homes passes through America’s ports, making them some of the most critical links in our nation’s supply chain,” said Buttigieg in a statement. “These investments will help expand capacity and speed up the movement of goods through our ports, contributing to cleaner air and more good-paying jobs as we go.”