Georgetown Tribal Council Environmental Blog

Keeping Members Connected to Resource & Environmental Issues Important to Georgetown



New Faces around the Office

As we spring forward this week with Daylight Savings Time (hopefully that lost hour of sleep wasn’t too painful), we have a new member on our team here at the Georgetown Tribal Council, me! My name is Meredith Witte, and I have recently joined GTC’s office as the new Environmental Coordinator.

A little about me: I am passionate about environmental stewardship and taking a proactive stance towards ensuring a safe and environmentally healthy future in the community. I earned my B.S. and M.S. in Mining Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2014 and 2016, respectively, with a focus in environmental studies and health and safety. I currently live in Eagle River with my husband, John, and our two dogs, Rocky and Apollo (Coincidentally, they are not named after the Rocky movie). We are avid outdoor enthusiasts and have enjoyed learning about all the available winter outdoor activities including cross-country skiing, skijoring, and ice skating. From everything we’ve heard, we know the rest of the year will be just as exciting!

The Witte Family
From left to right: Apollo, Meredith, John, and Rocky

I look forward to contributing to the Environmental Department with our planned work on protection of subsistence resources, traditional ecological knowledge, proposed and Superfund mine projects, and water quality and management initiatives. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at or at 907.274.2195.


Young Adult Health Fellowship Opportunities

The National Indian Health Board is currently accepting applications for the 2018 Tribal Youth Health Policy Fellowship. If you are interested in getting involved and promoting change, check out the eligibility requirements and applyDeadline: April 6, 2018

Here is more information:

The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) is pleased to announce that applications for the 2018 Tribal Youth Health Policy Fellowship are now open!

The National Indian Health Board’s second cohort of Fellows will consist of 12 Native youth from around the country to engage throughout the year in Indian health policy and programming efforts. The Fellows will engage in Indian health policy solutions, tell their personal story, and advocate for changes in the healthcare and public health systems important to their Tribal communities.

The Fellowship provides youth with key opportunities for relationship- and skills-building that allows them to return home feeling empowered, connected to other Native youth, and well equipped to be the next generation of advocates for Indian health.

Tribal Youth Health Policy Fellowship
The inaugural group of Health Policy Fellows received Indian health policy, law, and advocacy training, strengthened their leadership skills, and learned how to effectively serve as future Tribal leaders and Board members.

NIHB hopes to build off the success and experiences of the first cohort of Fellows and encourage all who are eligible to apply. One of the many goals of the NIHB is to teach tribal youth about governance structures and the federal trust responsibility and we will continue to work with Tribal youth to improve the healthcare system of Indian Country.
is an excellent way to get involved and help promote changes.

NIHB Picture

Additional Information
If you have any questions please contact, Bobby Ahern at, or call the National Indian Health Board at (202) 507-4070.


Donlin Gold Project – Public Hearing This Friday, January 26

Georgetown members & friends,

A public hearing will be held on the DONLIN GOLD PROJECT  AND DONLIN GOLD WASTE MANAGEMENT PERMIT from 6:30 to 9pm at the Atwood Conference Center on January 26th, that’s this Friday!

The public hearing is intended to provide the public an opportunity to submit oral comments regarding the draft permit. Public may also submit written comments in lieu of or in addition to providing oral testimony at the hearing.

Before reviewing the permit materials please read the following considerations from the Center for Science in Public Participation:

“Perhaps the most important points to recognize in Donlin’s application and DEC’s proposed permit are:
• Water treatment is likely to be forever, and approved in 5 year increments. Never before has the state of Alaska approved a mine knowing in advance that it will need to treat mine water “forever” (“in perpetuity”). This is precedent-setting.
• The water treatment system proposed is a good one, but must be vigilantly maintained.
• There are no requirements to maintain creek water as it is.”

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.

The APDES permit authorizes the discharge of treated wastewater to Crooked Creek from Outfall 001. The proposed facility is expected to operate at a net positive water balance thus necessitating the need to discharge excess water. The water treatment plant (WTP) will utilize oxidation, clarification and greensand filtration, with reverse osmosis (RO) as required. The WTP will have a combined maximum design capacity of approximately 4,750 gallons per minute (gpm), with an anticipated maximum treatment rate of approximately 4,500 gpm. A mixing zone is not authorized under this permit. The WMP authorizes the disposal and storage of solid and liquid waste to the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF); Class III Camp Municipal Solid Waste Landfills; American Creek Valley waste rock facility; ACMA and Lewis mine pits; Upper and Lower Contact Water Dams, and groundwater and surface water collection, and monitoring systems within the Donlin Gold Project footprint. In addition to the disposal of wastes listed above, this permit applies to hazardous chemical storage and containment, reclamation and closure activities related to all the facilities within the area, and financial responsibility to fund reclamation, closure and post-closure activities. This permit also covers monitoring requirements for the mine pits, waste rock, and ore stockpiles, and seepage collection systems.

Additionally, this permit covers reclamation and closure activities for the TSF; ore, waste rock, and overburden stockpiles; and mine pits, including disposal to the mine pits as approved by the department. Mixing Zone: DEC does not propose a mixing zone for the discharge into Crooked Creek from the Donlin Gold Project facility. To see the draft permit and fact sheet, go to For more information, contact Allan Nakanishi at 907-269-4028 or email regarding the draft APDES permit or Tim Pilon at 907-451-2136 or email for the WMP.

Deadline for comments is February 13.

ADFG Preliminary 2018 Kuskokwim River Chinook Salmon Forecast

Please find below the joint announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for fishermen in the Kuskokwim Area.

The preliminary 2018 Kuskokwim River Chinook Salmon forecast is for a total run of 140,000–190,000 fish. The drainage-wide Chinook salmon escapement goal is 65,000–120,000 fish. If the run comes back within this range, then there may be enough Chinook salmon to provide for escapement and subsistence needs.
The 2018 Chinook salmon forecast will be revised once 2017 Chinook salmon subsistence harvest estimates and all escapement numbers are available in early 2018. It is unlikely that the revised final forecast will deviate significantly from the preliminary forecast based on the available stock assessment information. However, additional subsistence fishing opportunity may be warranted if the run materializes as projected. The finalized forecast will further inform discussion of management strategies with the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group and Kuskokwim River Intertribal Fisheries Commission.
For additional information concerning this news release:
ADF&G: Aaron Tiernan 907-267-2379
USFWS: Ken Stahlnecker in Bethel 907-543-3151


Visit our Webpage for Great New Resources

Hi!  Thanks for checking out what we have that’s new for you!  The Georgetown Tribal Council website is a great way to find information and stay involved with what’s going on.

If it’s been awhile, I’d start at our main GTC page – and while you’re here, check out what’s new in the title bar.  Eric has added an Event Calendar, and new resources in the About Us Section, including river distances between villages, organizational documents and more.  There, you will also find our contact information.

river distance

If you have catching up to do on what GTC has been up to, I’d check out our Newsletter Archive page too.  All of our GTC newsletter and E-newsletters can be found there.

Also new to the title bar is our Education tab.  Here, you can find a link to our new environmental education resource. After you get there, just click on the door and you’ll enter a resource full of information for learning and teaching about environmental issues unique to the middle Kuskokwim. classroom

You can take a trip up the river to learn about the villages there, or find out information about water, fish & invasive plants.  If you already know a lot but are interested in finding resources to teach, I would suggest you explore the Contacts & Educational Resources.

Head on over to the Environmental page, and you’ll find some new resources, including:

  • Environmental Committee Info -upcoming meeting info and meet our members
  • Baseline water quality data project reports and a map of Middle Kuskokwim data
  • Copies of the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment we completed this summer
  • Reports documenting the History of Red Devil Mine & Donlin Gold Proposed Mine, along with information on how GTC has been involved with these project

As always, let us know if you have questions.  You can reach me at (907) 717-5292 or by e-mail at

Keep in touch!

Climate Change, Close to Home…Join us in the discussion of how to prepare for the future of Georgetown

Buzz words like climate change and global warming can at first seem very vague, and maybe we even think – that doesn’t apply to where I live….But when we start seeing hurricanes of unprecedented size wreak havoc on communities in other parts of the world, it becomes a bit more real.  Communities in Alaska paint the picture even more clearly, and closer to home.

Take for instance, the community of Newtok, where the Ninglick River is eating away at the shoreline.  Engineers estimate the village is losing 70 feet of land per year.


An Inupiaq Eskimo village, Kivalina is situated on a barrier island in the Chukchi Sea, about 80 miles north of the Arctic circle. Last October, the state declared a disaster after the main water line to the village was destroyed by a storm. The village was forced to close the school and impose water rationing.

Maybe you need an example even closer to home?  Jasmine Gil, originally from Bethel, is studying the effects of wildfires on permafrost with the Polaris Project, 50 miles north of Bethel.  “Gil and about a dozen recent graduates from across the nation have traveled north of Bethel to Kuka Creek to study the massive 2015 wildfire’s effects on the permafrost below. By one estimate, twice as much carbon is stored in permafrost as in the atmosphere. Wildfires could release that carbon, creating dramatic, and possibly, drastic effects on the planet.”

Recently, GTC staff members met with residents in the Middle Kuskokwim to record traditional ecological knowledge.  Several themes became apparent during those talks, including talk about how much colder the winters used to be, and how much more snow there was years ago.  Berries are changing, birds are changing….

What can we do?  The Native Village of Georgetown has a unique opportunity to use the information available, pair it with local knowledge and prepare for the future – rather than try to fix the past.  Instead of dealing with moving a village, we can take what we know and design a village fit to stand up to the changing climate.

Join us on September 9th at 1 PM at the Alaska Pacific University, for our vulnerability assessment workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to give participants the opportunity to share collective knowledge, learn about climate  projections, and consult with experts about impacts to our area. Results will be prepared into a report and other outreach materials intended to help us prepare for the future, along with the communities in our area.

For more information, contact Kate Schaberg at or by phone at (907) 717-5292.




Conservation For King Salmon is the Message, Following KRSMWG Meeting on June 14th

The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group met Wednesday morning, June 14th, 2017.  The  subsistence reports were heard, ADF&G staff gave their assessment, and overall there was agreement – the numbers aren’t adding up well for Chinook salmon in the Kuskokwim River Drainage so far this year.

The ADF&G assessment referenced a “snapshot” look into Chinook numbers.   Here is that snapshot provided by ADF&G on chinook salmon, taken from today’s working group packet, numbers up to date as of 6/12.

• The Bethel Test Fish (BTF) daily Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) was 3.
• The BTF cumulative CPUE is 21.
22% years since 2008 fell below this cumulative CPUE.
• 13% of the run is complete based on historical average run timing.
• 16% of the run is complete based on a preliminary run timing forecast (official forecast will be available soon).
• Late run scenarios are considered highly unlikely at this time due to the preliminary timing forecast (1.4 days early).
• 15 – 22% of the run is expected to pass in the next 5 days.
• Over the last 3 days, Chinook salmon made up 27% of the BTF catches, compared to 53% on average.

If these numbers tell us anything, it is that conservation for kings is necessary, and we are in another year where sockeye and coho will be relied heavily upon for subsistence needs.

The next working group meeting is scheduled for  Wednesday, June 21st at 10 am.

To view current escapement information, please visit the ADF&G Kuskokwim River Fish Counts page:
For the most up-to-date information regarding fishing opportunities please visit:

GTC’s TEK Project Leads to a Unique Glimpse into the Past of Georgetown, Alaska

As part of GTC’s project to document Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), staff members have been researching the historical information available about the Native Village of Georgetown.  Thanks to the efforts of our staff members, as well as the staff workers at the Alaska State Library Historical Collections, we are happy to present the following fourteen photographs, which serve as a glimpse into Georgetown as it once existed.

These photographs can be found in the collection entitled: Trip to Alaska: Georgetown, King Island, Little Diomede and other Alaskan communities, ca. 1910-1920 PCA 227.  The introduction to the collection states that the photographer/collector of the album is uncertain.  An excerpt from the introduction is below.

“Within the album is a name card for I.W. Mason of Seattle, Washington.  In 1910, a trading post was opened by George Fredericks on the Kuskokwim River northwest of Sleetmute.  Later it was named Georgetown and a post office was established there in 1912, but was discontinued in 1913.

Most of the photos are postcard size and the quality ranges from poor to good.  Many of the Georgetown views have a circled “S” on them.  The album was donated to the library in 1983 by R.N. DeArmond”

GTC will be conducting TEK interviews in both Georgetown & Sleetmute this summer.  If you have additional photographs or maps you think will be helpful to this project, or if you would like to be involved in the process, please contact our Project Assistant, Jonathan Samuelson at or our Environmental Coordinator, Kate Schaberg, at 907-717-5292.






Fishing Season is Almost Upon Us…Make Your Voices Heard!

The sun is rising earlier, and setting later each day.  The birds are singing about spring, and before we know it, bits of green will be sprouting everywhere and yes! – the fish will return.

And when they do return, what will happen?  Will there be plenty of subsistence opportunity? Will their be restrictions on the type of gear you can use? Will  escapement goals be met?……..Will there be enough fish?

These are questions that you can discuss during several meetings to be held next week in Bethel.  Use these groups and make your voices heard!

KRITFC Meeting: March 28-29

The first meeting is of the Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission (KRITFC).  It will be held at the Cultural Center in Bethel on March 28-29.  The KRITFC is the group that formed in the spring of 2015, for the very purpose of having full participatory governance that determine the harvest of the Kuskokwim’s salmon resources – Tribal, State & Federal governments, all at the same table.  All with an equal voice.

The KRITFC has Commissioners from thirty three villages, representing seven districts on the Kuskokwim.  This meeting will welcome all Commissioners plus interested members of the public.  If you cannot attend this meeting, please make sure to call you Commissioner sometime before these meetings, and let them know what concerns or thoughts you may have about the upcoming season, so that they can be represent you and your ideas.

If you aren’t sure who your Commissioner is, contact LaMont Albertson, the KRITFC Interim Director.

KRSMWG Meeting: March 30-31

The second opportunity will be at the Spring meeting of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group. The meeting will be on March 30 & 31, 2017 from 9:00am-5:00pm each day, also at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center in Bethel, AK.

This meeting will be conducted in person and via teleconference:
1-800-315-6338 (MEET) Code: 58756# (KUSKO).

This Working Group was formed in 1988 by the Alaska Board of Fish, in response to requests from stakeholders in the Kuskokwim Area who sought a more active role in the management of salmon fishery resources.  It is a State of Alaska inseason advisory group made up of 13 member seats representing elders, subsistence fishermen, processors, commercial fishermen, sport fishermen, member at large, federal subsistence regional advisory committees, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Up For Discussion: The 2017 Kuskokwim River Chinook Salmon Forecast and Associated Management Actions

The 2017 Kuskokwim River Chinook salmon forecast is for a range of 132,000–222,000 fish. The drainage-wide Chinook salmon escapement goal is 65,000–120,000. Average subsistence Chinook salmon harvest is 84,000. If the run comes back within the forecast range, then there may be enough Chinook salmon to provide for escapement and subsistence needs.

Kuskokwim River Management Strategy

The department intends to provide more directed Chinook salmon subsistence harvest opportunity than in recent years. Management actions that may be in place during the 2017 subsistence fishing season include, but are not limited to:

·         Early season Chinook salmon subsistence fishery closure;

·         Gillnet mesh size and length restrictions;

·         Tributary closures;

·         Live release of Chinook salmon from dip nets, fish wheels, seines etc.;

·         Time and area restrictions and;

·         Subsistence hook and line bag and possession limits.

If you are a Georgetown member, and have concerns you’d like our Commissioner to voice, Contact Jonathan Samuelson at or 907-274-2195.



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