Norton Sound fisheries take COVID-19 precautions

NSEDC distributes $5.45 M+ to member communities

Fishing vessels in Orca Bay. (May 12, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Norton Sound Economic Development Corp is developing a COVID-19 Community & Workforce Protection Plan to help mitigate the spread of the virus in communities in which NSEDC and Norton Sound Seafood Projects operate.

A central element of this plan is to eliminate or limit movement of individuals between regional communities as much as possible. NSEDC officials said the corporation would hire only residents who are currently in the communities where they operate their seafood plants and buying stations.

Plans are in place to isolate vessel crews to keep them from interacting with communities and residents as they transit the region to provide support to fishermen. Those plans also include measures to keep individuals distanced from each other at work, while putting in place protective measures for situations where distancing is not possible.

Once the plans are finalized, they will be made available to member communities and placed on NSEDC’s website, they said.

To date, the Nome census area has had one confirmed case of COVID-19.

NSEDC board members also announced on Tuesday, May 12, that they have voted to distribute over $5.45 million in profits to member communities and regional entities for a variety of projects benefitting area residents.

A total of $3.65 million was awarded for water and sewer improvement projects in four member communities, with another $1.69 million in Outside Entity Funding grants to 20 organizations for various programs, infrastructure and activities.

The NSEDC Water and Sewer Fund was created in 2019 to address critical water and sewer needs in Norton Sound communities. Eleven communities have infrastructure in place, but still face costly repair and maintenance projects to expand or keep their systems operational.

Four other communities do not have piped water and sewer and rely on honey buckets and a central location for potable water.

“It goes without saying that water and sewer issues impact the health and welfare of residents, as well as the financial stability of municipalities,” said Frank Katchatag, NSEDC board chairman.

“Reliable water and sanitation services has long been a critical need in our region,” he said. “Today’s pandemic highlights the importance of good hygiene. I’m grateful NSEDC is in a financial position to provide support for critical infrastructure in our member communities.”

Approved Water and Sewer Fund projects have two years to utilize their grants. The five-year program will sunset in 2024.