Georgetown Tribal Council Environmental Blog

Keeping Members Connected to Resource & Environmental Issues Important to Georgetown

Warm Weather Threatens Salmon Around the State

This summer’s weather has been rough on Alaska and its wildlife. In all corners of the state, there has been unusual weather events that have disrupted and threatened Alaskan wildlife. Rainstorms have pummeled the western coast, wildfires have swept through southcentral, and lightning has struck in the arctic ocean. This summer has also delivered record high temperatures and drought conditions for the sub-arctic that was the likely cause of a mass die-off of Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)  along the Koyukuk River.

Air temperatures along the Koyukuk river, near Huslia, Alaska, rose to 89 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit between July 7th through July 11th, at the same time water levels were extremely low. By the 12th there were sightings of dead chum salmon along the river. It is highly likely that the combination of low water level and high air temperature increased the water temperature to the point of being unhabitable for chum salmon. Further evidence to support this hypothesis came from a team of researchers led by Dr. Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, the director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, who arrived on the river about two weeks after the first sightings were recorded.

Dr. Quinn-Davidson’s team surveyed a 200 mile stretch of river and counted 850 dead chum salmon along the shoreline. The research team counted salmon as they boated upriver and stopped when they spotted large groups of salmon along the shore. Dr. Quinn-Davidson’s team examined the chum they found on shore to determine the overall health of the salmon before death. The salmon that the researchers sampled were in good condition before the die-off, as they found eggs and milt in the chum and they did not observe any lesions, parasites, or tumors. The number of dead salmon physically counted is likely to be a small fraction of the salmon killed by the heatwave, as most salmon would have either sunk to the bottom or been swept downriver.

The only species observed to be affected in this event were chum salmon. No dead King salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) were found and only two pike were observed to have died in the timeframe of the extreme heat event. The chum salmon likely died because of their smaller size and smaller fat stores. As salmon re-enter river systems, they stop eating and begin to burn their fat reserves to help them get upstream and prepare for reproduction. As temperatures rise, the metabolism for all living beings rises as well which burns more energy stored in the body as fat. Due to the condition that the chum were found in, the likely cause of death would be that most of the salmon simply ran out of energy due to heat stress. The King salmon with their larger bodies were likely able to survive the extreme heat event due to their larger fat stores.

Unfortunately, the Koyukuk river has not been the only river system experiencing a combination of high temperatures and low water levels due to a lack of snowpack from the winter and a lack of rain this summer. As a result, the Deshka and Little Susitna rivers have been closed to fishing for Coho salmon by emergency order from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. There has also been a report from a local environmental observer that Jakolof creek near Seldovia has dried out leading to a mass die-off of stranded salmon.

As our climate continues to shift, Alaskan wildlife will experience more stressful events that are beyond their control. There are some actions we can take in specific areas to help mitigate the effects of a changing climate on wildlife. In this case there is little we can do to increase the amount of precipitation to keep our rivers running, but we can provide shady areas to help salmon stay cool. One proposal is to strategically planting trees along riverbanks, in eddies and bends to provide cold water refuges for salmon as they journey upriver.

Reporting changes in the environment or abnormal wildlife behavior is just as important as direct action. If you see something off in your environment, please report it to the Local Environmental Observers network at . If you happen to witness wildlife behaving abnormally or a mass-die off you can report it to or to a wildlife biologist at your Fish and Game office. Timely and accurate information are vital to protecting our environment and the wildlife that we share it with. If you see a large dead salmon please conduct a survey or contact a wildlife biologist. Relevant data to collect would be a total count, sex, photographs or video, check for pale gills, any sign of infection, disease or parasites and condition of belly fat. For more information please visit

Sam Bundy, Environmental Program Assistant

An Overview of Ocean Acidification

Its July and salmon are running on the Kuskokwim river again. Here in Alaska, we are fortunate that we have managed to keep our salmon stocks as strong as they are. Further south, our salmon’s cousins are not faring as well. There are many reasons our southerly neighbors are struggling to recover their salmon stocks, but this article is going to focus on ocean acidification.

It is important to understand what ocean acidification is and how it affects marine wildlife so that we can develop plans to monitor and mitigate its effects on the wildlife we depend on. Ocean acidification is a climate related issue that is occurring globally. It is an issue that is difficult to monitor due to the remote nature of the problem, the length of time that this problem has taken to develop, and the difficulty in collecting pH measurements of large bodies of water globally.

Ocean Acidification is the term used to describe the reaction that occurs when excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere enters the earth’s oceans. The turbulence of the earth’s oceans absorbs CO2, among other gasses, from the atmosphere. The oceans act as a natural sink for CO2, which in the past has helped reduced the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, in the centuries since the industrial revolution of the late 19th century, the amount of CO2 absorbed has increased the global acidity of the oceans by approximately 30%. (PMEL… c2019)

This drastic increase in the acidity of our oceans is currently impacting marine wildlife. As the acidity of our oceans increases, the availability of minerals used by marine wildlife to grow shells and carapaces decreases. Some examples of wildlife directly affected are krill, crabs, oysters, clams, corals and some planktons (NWF… c2019). Ocean acidification is also contributing to the migration of species in the oceans. As ocean conditions change by becoming more acidic, species that were once limited in their range have begun to shift into new areas that have become more suitable to their physiology (Bowen et al. 2015). Current models of the food web as related to salmon predict that that this may be a positive impact for salmon (Reum et al. 2015).

A recent study from the University of Washington has shown that an increase in acidity can interfere with a salmon’s ability to smell. A salmon’s sense of smell has multiple uses including reproduction, navigation, hunting, and predator avoidance. The researchers observed that the salmon exposed to higher CO2 concentrations were able to detect scents, however, it appeared that the salmon were unable to recognize what the scents were and remained indifferent. The researchers hope that the findings from their study will help spur more conservation action from local authorities (Salmon… 2018).

In addition to the direct effects on salmon and other marine wildlife, increased CO2 concentrations in the ocean have the potential to reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in water. This can reduce the amount of marine wildlife a localized body of water can support, (Johnson-Colegrove et al. 2015, Takeshita et al. 2015).

Freshwater acidification is a related, albeit less studied topic at this point, but just as important to the health of salmon. One recent study suggests that freshwater acidification can have negative impacts on salmon development, such as body length and yolk conversion efficiency, and inhibited sense of smell (Ou et al. 2015).

As climate change continues to progress, observing and recording its effects will become more important to developing adaptation strategies and managing wildlife. Monitoring ocean acidification at this time may only be possible for government agencies and academic researchers, due to the remote and widespread nature of the problem. However, more accessible bodies of water such as rivers, estuaries and lakes are also susceptible to acidification and can more easily monitored by citizen scientists on a regular basis. An example of relevant data to collect would be temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen content.

Sam Bundy, Environmental Program Assistant

Literature Cited:

Bowen, A., G. Rollwagen-Bollens, S. M. Bollens, and J. Zimmerman. 2015. Feeding of the invasive copepod Pseudodiaptomus forbesi on natural microplankton assemblages within the lower Columbia River. Journal of Plankton Research 37(6):1089-1094.

Chinook Salmon. [accessed 2019 Jul 5].

Johnson-Colegrove, A., L. Ciannelli, and R. D. Brodeur. 2015. Ichthyoplankton distribution and abundance in relation to nearshore dissolved oxygen levels and other environmental variables within the Northern California Current System. Fisheries Oceanography 24(6):495-507.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Crozier L. 2015. Impacts of Climate Change on Salmon of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, WA: Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

Ou, M., and coauthors. 2015. Responses of pink salmon to CO2-induced aquatic acidification. Nature Climate Change 5(10):950-+.

Reum, J. C. P., and coauthors. 2015. Evaluating community impacts of ocean acidification using qualitative network models. Marine Ecology Progress Series 536:11-24.

staff SX. 2018 Dec 18. Salmon may lose the ability to smell danger as carbon emissions rise. [accessed 2019 Jul 5].

Takeshita, Y., and coauthors. 2015. Including high-frequency variability in coastal ocean acidification projections. Biogeosciences 12(19):5853-5870.

What is Ocean Acidification? PMEL Carbon Program. [accessed 2019 Jul 5]. is Ocean Acidification?

Donlin Gold Natural Gas Pipeline Commenting Opportunity

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve seen the following headlines:

With a favorable Record of Decision signed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Bureau of Land Management in August of 2018, Donlin Gold has continued its permitting process with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources. In 2014, Donlin submitted its original application for a Right-of-Way (ROW) lease to build and manage a natural gas pipeline on State lands. The 14-inch small diameter pipeline is expected to be approximately 315 miles total in length. Of the total 315 miles of pipeline, about 207 miles are to be constructed on State lands. The application was amended in 2017 following stakeholder discussions requesting a shift in the pipeline to reduce impacts on the Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT).

In response to the ROW lease application and the Analysis and Proposed Decision released by the Commissioner, public hearings have been announced in the following schedule:

February 27, 2019   4 – 6pm – McGrath Community Center
February 28, 2019   1 – 2pm – Tyonek Tribal Center
March 4, 2019          6 – 8pm – Bethel Cultural Center                                   
March 6, 2019          7 – 9pm – Aniak Community Center
March 12, 2019     5:30 – 7:30pm – Atwood Conference Center (Anchorage)
March 13, 2019     11am – 1pm – Skwenta Roadhouse

Attend the hearings to present your comments orally or in written form to make sure your voice is heard or submit written comments to DNR by March 22, 2019 at 5 pm.

Overview of the Pipeline

Figure 1. Overview of the Natural Gas Pipeline under consideration for Donlin (SRK, 2013).

The shift, referred to as the “North Route,” encompasses about 27 miles from MP 87 to MP 112 of the pipeline and shifts the pipeline about a mile north and east of the original plan. By shifting the pipeline, there would be no crossing of the Happy River, only one INHT crossing in the 27-mile stretch, and decrease the pipeline’s interference with the INHT’s 400-foot easement down to less than 0.1 miles (Feige, C., 2019b). With the 2017 amendment, there will be up to 10 proposed horizontal directional drilling sites for water body crossings (up from 6 in the original application) with 7 located on State lands.

Figure 2. Map of Original and North Routes for Natural Gas Pipeline (Donlin, 2017). The lime green line highlights the 400′ wide easement for the Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT).

If the ROW lease is issued by the Commissioner, construction of the pipeline will commence within receiving the lease. Completion of the pipeline is scheduled to take between three to four years during winter and summer seasons. Most construction is expected to occur during winter months to take advantage of frozen soil conditions.

During the construction phase of the pipeline, the Right-of-Way disturbance will occupy a width of 150 for a total of 6,610 acres on State lands (this does not include Federal or Native-owned land). Post construction and normal operation of the pipeline would permanently occupy a width of 50 feet for Right-of-Way disturbance, centered on the pipeline, for a total of 1,250 acres on State lands. This permanently disturbed area is part of the total acreage that is compensated for and included in the compensatory mitigation plan agreement between Donlin Gold, LLC and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.

During construction of the pipeline, temporary facilities built within the construction ROW will include material sites, access roads, work pads, airfields, and construction camps. Existing airstrips may be modified to handle equipment carrying aircraft. For a full list of the temporary facilities, read the Commissioner’s Analysis and Proposed Decision: Right-of-Way Lease for the Donlin Pipeline, ADL 231908. All temporary sites will undergo stabilization, rehabilitation, and reclamation will occur as soon as applicable, however, no exact timeline has been given for how long the reclamation process will take after construction and use of temporary sites have been completed.

As noted throughout the Donlin Gold permitting process, the Analysis and Proposed Decision highlighted that several natural and cultural resources, including those of historical significance, may be impacted during construction. USACE, as the lead federal agency overseeing the Donlin Section 106 Review, is tasked with ensuring Donlin’s compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) to protect cultural resources. Keep in mind that cultural resources can include, “…paleontological resources (fossils), and pre-historic and historic sites and districts.” (Feige, 2019b). From field surveys, 13 Alaska Heritage Resource Sites were identified, including historic properties, the INHT, and sites with evidence of prehistoric occupation or lithic scatters (USACE, 2018). A Programmatic Agreement was formed as a plan to preserve and protect historic, prehistoric, and archaeological resources that may be uncovered during construction of the pipeline and development of the Donlin Gold project.

Following the public comment period ending March 22, 2019, the Commissioner will review written comments and testimony from public hearings to make a final decision on the ROW lease application. If you would like help submitting a comment, please let our office know and we will be happy to help your voice be heard. Contact us at 907.274.2195 or by email at

M Witte

Articles referenced for this blog post:

Cannon, D. (2019, Feb. 1). Donlin Gold project not as fish-friendly as state asserts. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved from:

DeMarban, A. (2019, Jan. 29). Slug of proposed permits launches comment periods for Donlin Gold project. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved from:

Feige, C. (2019a, Jan. 11). State committed to safely developing Donlin Gold project. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved from:

Feige, C. (2019b, Jan. 28). Commissioner’s Analysis and Proposed Decision  Right-of-Way Lease for the Donlin Pipeline, ADL 231908. DNR Division of Oil and Gas, State Pipeline Coordinator’s Section. Retrieved from:

Shallenberger, K. (2019, Jan. 28). More Public Comment Periods Set for  Donlin Gold Mine. Alaska’s Energy Desk – KYUK. Retrieved from:

Shallenberger, K. (2019, Jan. 31). Nonprofit Raises Questions Over  Recent Donlin State Permits. Alaska’s Energy Desk – KYUK. Retrieved from:

Shallenberger, K. (2019, Jan. 31). State To Hold Public Hearings in Y-K Delta For Proposed Pipeline Right Of Way. Alaska’s Energy Desk – KYUK. Retrieved from:

SRK Consulting (US), Inc. (SRK). (2013, Dec.). Natural Gas Pipeline Plan of Development Donlin Gold Project. Donlin Gold. Retrieved from:

Whitbeck, R. (2019, Jan. 27). Alaska’s energy future is bright – so long as environmentalists don’t derail it. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved from:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). (2018, June). Programmatic  Agreement. Retrieved from:

Compensatory Mitigation: What is it?

If you haven’t heard, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (AMHTA) announced on December 17, 2018 that it finalized its first conservation agreement with Donlin Gold, LLC to enter into a long-term deed restriction agreement to preserve just under 2,000 acres of Trust wetlands near Tyonek for wetland compensatory mitigation of 2,800 acres of disturbed wetlands in the Middle Kuskokwim. As a part of this agreement, Donlin Gold paid the Trust $200,000 upfront for the ability to purchase a deed restriction in the future and will continue to pay $20,000 per year over the next 10 years to maintain this mitigation option until the mine is officially under construction. If the mine comes into fruition, Donlin will pay the Trust $1.3 million to secure 1,933 acres Trust’s existing wetlands and limit surface development of the wetlands as compensatory mitigation for 99 years. All earnings with the agreement will be used to support programs that serve Alaska Mental Health Trust beneficiaries.

So what is compensatory mitigation?

The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) revised the definition of Compensatory Mitigation in 2008 as “…the restoration (re-establishment or rehabilitation), establishment (creation), enhancement, and/or preservation of wetlands, streams, and other aquatic resources to offset unavoidable adverse impacts of development after all appropriate and practicable avoidance and minimization efforts have been achieved.”

Meaning that compensatory mitigation allows for companies that are irreversibly changing or adversely affecting the environment on their site to protect, restore, or enhance wetlands or other aquatic environments in other locations to make up for lost habitat and environmental resources.

Generally, there are three types of compensatory mitigation:

  • Mitigation Banks – A site, or suite of sites, where resources (e.g., wetlands, streams, riparian areas) are restored, established, enhanced, and/or preserved for the purpose of providing compensatory mitigation for impacts authorized by Department of the Army permits. In general, a mitigation bank sells compensatory mitigation credits to permittees whose obligation to provide compensatory mitigation is then transferred to the mitigation bank sponsor. The operation and use of a mitigation bank are governed by a mitigation banking instrument.
  • In-lieu fee programs – Defined as a program involving the restoration, establishment, enhancement, and/or preservation of aquatic resources through funds paid to a governmental or non-profit natural resources management entity to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements for DA permits.
  • Permittee-Responsible Mitigation – This is an aquatic resource restoration (reestablishment or rehabilitation), establishment (creation), enhancement, and/or preservation activity undertaken by the permittee (or an authorized agent or contractor) to provide compensatory mitigation for which the permittee retains full responsibility. (This is what Donlin Gold is currently pursuing with AMHTA)

In comparison to the lower 48 with only 5.2% of its surface area classified as wetlands, Alaska’s wetlands occupy 43.3 % of the state’s surface area. This creates a unique challenge for development in Alaska which is most likely why Donlin Gold is pursuing this avenue for mitigation efforts. Donlin Gold did explore other options to directly impact the Middle Kuskokwim, but those options were not selected as their final mitigation plan.

Wetlands in the United States (USGS)

If you’re interested in learning more about compensatory mitigation in Alaska, the EPA and USACE signed and released a Memorandum of Agreement on June 15, 2018 which gave guidance on flexibilities for compensatory mitigation in the state of Alaska including the following six principles:

  1. Avoiding wetlands may not be practicable where there is a high proportion of land in a watershed or region which is jurisdictional wetlands;
  2. Restoring, enhancing, or establishing wetlands for compensatory mitigation may not be practicable due to limited availability of sites and/or technical or logistical limitations;
  3. Compensatory mitigation options over a larger watershed scale may be appropriate given that compensation options are frequently limited at a smaller watershed scale;
  4. Where a large proportion of land is under public ownership, compensatory mitigation opportunities may be available on public land;
  5. Out-of-kind compensatory mitigation may be appropriate when it better serves the aquatic resource needs of the watershed; and
  6. Applying a less rigorous permit review for small projects with minor environmental impacts is consistent with the Section 404 program regulations.

You can find the memorandum document on EPA’s website.

If you have any comments on Donlin Gold or want to learn more please reach out to our Environmental Department at or at 907.274.2195. We will do our best to keep everyone informed on Donlin Gold’s progress.

M Witte 

Featured image by Donlin Gold

Citizen Science, No Lab Coat Required

Ever since I’ve moved to Alaska, people have told me, “Just wait, the summer makes it worth it.” In response to this, I have to say:

  1. IMG-2113.JPG
    Made it to Exit Glacier!

    I have loved every Alaskan season I’ve experienced so far, winter being one of my favorites.

  2. This summer has been AMAZING!

The weather has been beautiful this summer and I have spent every minute possible enjoying it. One of the most unique things I did this summer was take part in a Citizen Science Partnership. To explain, I have a personal goal of visiting all 60 National Parks and this summer while I was visiting Kenai Fjords National Park to hike Exit Glacier, I came across this little sign post…

On the trail to Exit Glacier PC: Larry Perez

This is a Picture Post, it is an eight-sided platform that you use to take pictures of an area in multiple directions to give an idea of what the environment looks like on a certain day. You upload the pictures to Picture Post using the link provided by the sign and the pictures are used to document the local conditions of the Picture Post during the year.

These are the pictures I took from the Picture Post.

The Picture Post for Exit Glacier has been in place since 2016. By uploading my pictures, I was participating in a Citizen Science program to track the greenery, atmospheric conditions, and weather on the Kenai Peninsula. It was fast and fun to see the pictures I posted along with all the pictures posted by other enthusiasts.

So how can you get involved?

There are lots of Citizen Science opportunities in Alaska, here are a couple of projects you can get involved with:

  1. Winterberry  – UAF Scientists are researching how berries and flowers are impacted by climate change, help them out! Winterberry
  2. Alaska Hare Project – ADF&G wants to know more about Alaskan hares, have you seen any?Alaska Hare
  3. LEO (Local Environmental Observer) Network – ANTHC has developed the LEO Network to record and track changes in the local environment, download the app on your phone today!LEO

There are lots of Citizen Science projects out there, go find one that focuses on a cause that’s important to you and get started! If you are interested and want help finding a project to work on, contact the Environmental Department at We’d be happy to help!

M. Witte

Salmon Watch on the Kuskokwim

As the weather is warming up and the salmon start heading upriver to spawn in the Kuskokwim, Georgetown and other communities are in conservation mode to protect the Chinook and other salmon species for today and future generations. If you are interested in learning about other ways to support the salmon, check out the LEO Network.

The LEO Network is a powerful tool developed by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) as a platform to share information and raise awareness about the climate and environmental change. LEO includes observations from around the world and you can contribute too!

Here is how LEO works:LEO_Network

  • Observe something out of the ordinary:

-Salmon aren’t running when they should be or large numbers of salmon running
-Salmon have parasites or looks strange
-Salmon are showing up in fish weirs, but not in nets
-Or other out of the ordinary experiences (e.g. extreme weather, unusual animals, etc.)

  • Report it! There are several options:

-Sign up with LEO Network and report it online or through your phone’s LEO app  (currently supported for iPhones, will update if added to Google Play). App Store
-Write up what you saw, include pictures (if possible), and email them to me at so I can help you report it.
-Post it to Georgetown’s Facebook Page so we can see it and with your permission, notify the LEO Network.

  • LEO Network officials review the post and reach out to experts to explain the observation.

-LEO reaches out to ADF&G, fish biologists, professors at universities, or other subject matter experts to find out more information about the reported observation.

  • LEO shares information to observer and publically with observer network to document and increase awareness about event.

If you are interested, here are some examples of salmon observations from the past:

Salmon Example 1.PNG
Kitchivik River – Photo by Mike Brubaker

Toby Anungazuk Jr. writes: The permafrost is thawing on the river banks and has caused a lot of erosion since about 2007. The bank has collapsed causing the channel to be blocked with dirt and small islands of plants. The water is much dirtier then it usually is. It used to be clear and you could see the fish. In 2007 the water was usually the color of tea. Now it is more often like coffee. The salmon is late coming into the river this year. There are also fewer salmon. I am wondering if they are waiting for the water to clear before they come into the river. We are monitoring river conditions using a Hobo logger so hopefully, we will have good data soon. We are also concerned about the water used by camps for drinking and by people who haul water from the river for their home use. There are a lot more big willow now in the river and also a lot more beaver.

LEO says:
This observation will be forwarded to the salmon research community in Alaska with the intent of learning more about the relationships between water quality and salmon and other fish in Arctic rivers. It will also be shared with Norton Sound Health Corporation regards beaver and prevention of waterborne illness in rivers used by residents for drinking water.

Salmon Example 3
PC: C Prince

Observation: A local resident cleaning fish observed a chum salmon with pus draining from the flesh of the fish. Charles writes, the salmons backbone and meat of the fish carcass have been placed into a freezer. C. Prince, for local resident.

Alaska Department of Fish & Game Consult: Ted Meyer, State Fish Pathologist writes, “Based on the photo there appears to be a long linear-shaped abscess in the dorsal musculature of the affected chum salmon. The lesion is probably due to a bacterial infection, possibly introduced from a piercing type wound maybe caused by a predator or a gaff or spear.”

  • T. Meyer, ADF&G writes, “A probable abscess renders this fish likely not fit for human consumption so it should be discarded.”

Observer Comment: Based on this for future references, should we just take pictures and discard the fish? C. PrinceResource: Alaska Department of Fish and GameCommon Diseases of Wild and Cultured Fishes in Alaska, a good reference for learning about illness in salmon provided by the, Fish Pathology Laboratory.

Salmon Example 4
Estuary up head King Cove Lagoon (Photo by Jane Mack, King Cove)

Desirae Roehl and Jane Mack write, At the end of August, my family and I drove to Whittier and were happy to see so many pink salmon in the creeks. Over the next several days, salmon abundance was brought up in numerous conversations and I noticed many family and friends posting photos and videos on Facebook. My aunt Jane Mack from King Cove snapped the associated photo and said, “there were so many humpies (pink salmon) and fish, in general, this year that they were spawning all along the beach from the Rams to the Lagoon. It was amazing to watch. The creeks were so full – I bet the oxygen levels weren’t so good for them though.” It’s not typical for the salmon to spawn along the beaches, but figure they had no choice if they were unable to fit in the creek.

LEO says: About 75 miles ENE of King Cove on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula lies Sand Point, AK. David Osterback, Captain, Commercial Fisherman, and LEO Member documented the pink salmon run for the Shumagin Islands during the summers of 2015-16. During 2015, Sand Point’s pink salmon run had an unprecedented return with numbers not seen before. The following year, 2016 it was the complete opposite, local fisherman did notice a change in the sea water temperature during 2015 as being warmer than 2016. Conversation among commercial fisherman in the Shumagin’s during 2016 mention the warmer water temperature’s are a potential factor with salmon numbers. During the 2017 salmon season in the Kachemak Bay, pink salmon were showing up in unexpected places around Homer, AK. M. Tcheripanoff

Resources: Alaska Department of Fish & Game – “Pink salmon have the shortest lifespan of all the Pacific salmon found in North America. They mature and complete their entire life cycle in two years. This predictable two-year life cycle has created genetically distinct odd-year and even-year populations of pink salmon.”

  • Wildlife Notebook Series – The pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) also known as the “humpy” because of its very pronounced, laterally flattened hump which develops on the backs of adult males before spawning.

Olympic National Park Washington – The Salmon Life Cycle, “The anadromous life history strategy of salmon plays a key role in bringing nutrients from the ocean back into rivers and the wildlife community. Though it varies among the five species of Pacific salmon, in its simplest form, it is hatch, migrate, spawn, die.” Source: NPS February 2015.

We work to keep you updated on what is happening along the Kuskokwim. If you are interested in getting involved or have any questions, feel free to contact me  at or at 907.274.2195.

M Witte 06.15.2018

This observations were taken from the LEO Network with permission. Please respect the information collected and presented by crediting the observers and pictures in the observations. Featured Image Photo Credit: USFWS/ Ryan Hagerty

Donlin Gold Compensatory Mitigation Plan Comments Submitted!

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Donlin Gold was released on April 27, 2018. An additional commenting period was opened for the updated Compensatory Mitigation Plan (CMP) of the FEIS, located in Appendices J and M of the FEIS. The CMP addresses how Donlin Gold plans to mitigate short- and long-term temporary disturbances and permanent disturbances to wetlands, riparian areas, and streams in the Mine, Pipeline, and Transportation Areas. These comments were due by May 29, 2018.

After reviewing the updated CMP, Georgetown submitted comments that will be reviewed and addressed with other comments submitted by the public. We appreciate the ability to voice our concerns and receive meaningful responses from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as the Kuskokwim and other areas should be developed properly to avoid unnecessarily damaging the environment.

As a summary, most of the comments submitted by Georgetown were in support of requiring stricter language, additional research, and further explanation of Donlin Gold’s decisions for compensatory mitigation.

  • We expressed the need for stricter language for Donlin Gold’s timeline to remediate disturbed sites. In the updated CMP, timelines were suggested with the phrasing “as soon as practicable,” which we felt should be addressed to ensure remediation will occur in a timely manner.
  • The updated CMP also included plans for remediating old placer mines by removing berms and revegetating to realign the water channels. Georgetown was concerned about the mineralogy of the sediments by historical and requested additional and requested additional studies be completed on sediments of the historical placer mines and berms.
  • Georgetown requested stricter requirements for revegetation to take necessary actions to limit invasive plants during revegetation and measure successful revegetation on remediated berms and tailings. Georgetown also requested additional studies of subsistence fish species for metals and other contaminants in the remediated area.
  • Georgetown expressed concerns about the viability of the Chuitna wetland preservation option for compensatory mitigation plan. Protecting the wetlands of Alaska is very important to preserve the natural filtration process for water quality as well as limiting impacts of natural resource extraction or other human activities. However, Donlin Gold’s plan for preserving wetlands in the Chuitna watershed is a point of concern for Georgetown. This does not impeded future mining operations from permitting and operating upstream and may still impact the watershed. Water quality testing was requested by Georgetown to be included in the CMP for the Chuitna preservation plan to develop a baseline in case of future natural resource extraction in the area.
  • More information on the Fuller Creek watershed preservation was requested to explain why the preservation plan, located in the Middle Kuskokwim Region, was rejected.

This is a summary of the thoughts and concerns submitted by Georgetown as comments to USACE for the Donlin Gold Compensatory Mitigation Plan. If you are interested in reading a full version of our comments, please email me and I can send you a copy. As this process continues to move forward, I will do my best to keep you informed, and please don’t hesitate to send me any questions you may have.

Meredith Witte
PC: Donlin Gold  June 7, 2018


Donlin Gold Project Update: Final EIS Published

Dear Georgetown Community and Friends,

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Donlin Gold Project on April 27, 2018. To view the whole document, click here. To view the executive summary, click here.

Comments are being only accepted on the updated compensatory mitigation plan included as appendices to the final EIS document (specifically, Appendices J and M).

From USACE Special Public Notice: Comments on the compensatory mitigation plan will be accepted through a 30 day review period, beginning April 27, 2018, and ending May 29, 2018. This comment period is intended to provide those interested in or affected by this proposal an opportunity to make their concerns known prior to a decision being made by the Corps. All comments concerning the compensatory mitigation plan should be directed to: Mr. Jamie R. Hyslop, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District, CEPOA-RD-Hyslop, P.O. Box 6898, JBER, AK, 99506-0898; via email at: or; (907) 753-2670.

Donlin Gold, LLC (Donlin Gold) is proposing the development of an open pit, hard rock gold mine in southwestern Alaska, about 277 miles west of Anchorage, 145 miles northeast of Bethel, and 10 miles north of the village of Crooked Creek. The proposed project would be located in an area of low-lying, well-rounded ridges on the western portion of the Kuskokwim Mountain. The proposed Donlin Gold project would require approximately three to four years to construct, with the mine life currently projected to be approximately 27 years. The mine is proposed to be a year-round, conventional “truck and shovel” operation using both bulk and selective mining methods.

Updates for Appendix J: USACE Section 10 Rivers and Harbors Act/ Section 404 Clean Water Act Permit Application and Appendix M: Compensatory Mitigation Plan from December 2017 include: 

Updated Affected Wetland and Stream Areas
1. The quantities of wetland acreage and stream length impacts were updated to reflect
the current wetlands mapping based on the Preliminary Jurisdiction Determination
report (PJD) dated December 2016 that was requested by the Corps as part of the
project review. The Corps issued a preliminary determination concurring with the
mapping dated February 27, 2017. An addendum was filed in August 2017 to include
the mapping for the pipeline North Route option. The Corps issued a preliminary
determination concurring with the addendum mapping dated October 12, 2017. The
total mapped area covered by the 2 determinations is 107,408.5 acres.

**For affected wetlands: Donlin Gold proposes two PRM projects to offset the permanent fill impacts in the Mine Area (MA), Transportation Area (TA), and Pipeline Area (PA) including:

  • Restore and preserve approximately 101.7-acres of wetlands and riparian area with 8,501-linear feet (1.61-miles) of stream, and establish another 71.0-acres of  riparian preservation buffers, in historical placer mining areas in the Upper Crooked Creek watershed.
  • Preserve a total of 5,888-acres, of which it is estimated 2,558-acres are wetlands and ponds, with an additional 3,330-acres of upland riparian areas, stream area, and buffers, and 228,325-linear feet (43.24-miles) of streams in the Chuitna  watershed.

This Final CMP is submitted to USACE as part of the DA Permit application.

Rerouted Pipeline around Iditarod National Historic Trail (North Route)
2. Following the submission of comments by the public and agencies on the draft EIS and
initial permit application, the pipeline route was adjusted to avoid all co-location with
the Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT). Donlin was able to plan and propose a route
(known as the North Route option) in response to the concerns that were raised. In
addition, the project plan now includes options for reducing visual impacts at the 4
locations where the pipeline crosses the INHT. The North Route option is now
incorporated as the proposed plan in the updated DA application. The overall length of
the pipeline did not change materially.

Inclusion of a Compensatory Mitigation Plan
3. The DA application includes a Compensatory Mitigation Plan (CMP) for the updated
wetland acreage and stream length impacts. The CMP documents the extensive
evaluation that was undertaken first to identify potential mitigation opportunities
within the affected watersheds, including both restoration and preservation
opportunities. The CMP then documents the expanded search for appropriate
mitigation opportunities beyond the affected watersheds, until adequate practicable  mitigation opportunities could be identified to fulfill the values and standards of
Alaska’s wetland mitigation policy. The CMP presents a mitigation plan that offsets the
project impacts based on an acre-to-acre and foot-to-foot basis for wetlands and
streams, respectively (taken from Appendix M).

A Record of Decision on the Donlin Gold Project is expected for the final EIS and wetlands permit application later in 2018.

Georgetown Environmental Department and Tribal Council will be reviewing all documentation to determine the next course of action necessary.  If you have any comments you would like to submit to us about your concerns, please feel free to email us at or call at (907)-274-2196.


Kuskokwim Fisheries Federal Special Action Request Hearing 04/19/2018 – Make Your Voice Heard

The information below is provided by Federal Subsistence Board from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

There will be a public hearing for Fisheries Special Action Request (FSA18-03) submitted by the Aniak Native Community scheduled on April 19, 2018 from 6:00-8:00pm.

Hearing Information:
To receive testimony on a temporary special action request received by the Federal Subsistence Board (Board). The Temporary Special Action Request FSA18-03 requests the following:

• Close Federal public waters of the Kuskokwim River drainage to the harvest of Chinook Salmon except by Federally qualified subsistence users possessing a community harvest permit between May 20, 2018 and July 1, 2018,

• Reduce the pool of eligible harvesters based on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Section 804 Subsistence User Prioritization that was implemented in 2017, and

• Establish a harvest allocation of Chinook Salmon similar to what was implemented in 2015.

In Person:
Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center
420 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway
Bethel, AK

Via Telephone:
Teleconference: Toll Free: (888)-455-5897
Passcode: 3344290

If you have an opinion or testimony to contribute, please attend either in person or by calling in with the number provided. When prompted, enter the passcode. Comments will be forwarded to the Board for consideration on the temporary special action request. For more information, go to

Let your voice be heard and consider attending in person or listen in on the phone. As we approach the start of salmon season, there has been a lot of communication and work done by the communities along the Kuskokwim, the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to create a successful and cohesive management plan for this upcoming season. This is another opportunity to express concerns or learn more about the upcoming season.

If you are interested in learning about the motions of support passed by the Kuskokwim Working Group for this season, check out the latest edition of our E-Newsletter to find out more information.

Let us know if there is any other information you want to know in preparation for the upcoming season. We work to keep you updated on what is happening along the Kuskokwim. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at or at 907.274.2195.

M Witte 04.18.2018

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