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Georgetown Tribal Council Environmental Blog

Keeping Members Connected to Resource & Environmental Issues Important to Georgetown

Is Climate Change Effecting Water Temperatures in Georgetown?

Georgetown Tribal Council staff members just got back from the fall trip out to Georgetown to complete water testing.   We have been collecting information from the monitoring well sights since 2008, and the freshwater sites since 2012.  In this article we will  share  some of the interesting trends we are starting to see in the freshwater sites.

For a complete set of water quality data for Georgetown as well as other communities on the middle Kuskokwim, please visit our online map and database here.

Figure 1 below shows the temperatures recorded in the Kuskokwim River, just in front of Georgetown (KR-1), as well as just up from  the mouth of the George River (GR-1) from 2012 to 2016.   Data is collected in the early part of the summer and in the beginning of the fall each year.  What do all of these lines mean?  Well in terms of preferred salmon water conditions: If the water temperature is found to be above the bright red line, it means that the water is too warm for migrating salmon and rearing areas.  If the water temperature is above the dark red line, it means that the water is too warm for spawning and egg/fry incubation.

temperature-graph-2016
Figure 1: Temperature Recorded at Kuskokwim & George Rivers, as related to maximum temperature ranges for salmon in various stages of their life cycle

 

All of the recorded temperatures that fall above those lines are labeled in the graph above. Note that on the George River, since 2013, each recording in July has fallen above that dark red line.  For the Kuskokwim River, the temperatures are coming in above both  the bright red and the dark red, meaning conditions would not be good for salmon migrating through the area or spawning there.

do-graph
Figure 2: Dissolved Oxygen Levels at George & Kuskokwim Rivers, as related to range set by AK DEC  Water Quality standards

 

Figure 2 shows Dissolved oxygen levels at these same sites. The only time Dissolved oxygen levels fell outside of the range set by AK DEC water quality standards was in September of this year, and it was above the maximum level, which is less concerning than if it would fall below the range.

pH, salinity & total dissolved solids are other parameters we measure, and those levels are all looking good.

It is worth asking if the rising temperature in the rivers are due to a warming climate.  Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning (SNAP)  temperature predictions show for Georgetown (figure 3) that temperature increases will continue and it seems to agree that July is one of the warmer months.  To view the interactive version of this graph visit  the SNAP website – graphs are available for most communities in Alaska. It seems only likely that if temperatures are on the rise, water temperatures would follow suit.

SNAP_Chart_Georgetown_Alaska_temperature_rcp60_metric_cru32_10min_hires.png
Figure 3: SNAP predictions of temperatures rising in Georgetown

 

For more information about the parameters we measure, visit our website.  Stay tuned for more information about what kind of metals we are finding in both freshwater and monitoring well sites.  We will post information once we receive results from Test America from the trip this September.

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What’s New at the Red Devil Mine Site?

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) completed an early action at the Red Devil Mine site last summer 2015 which basically moved tailings already there away from the creek and created a place to catch future eroded tailings.   This also involved some realigning of a portion of the Red Devil Creek.

Why go to all of this effort?  It was determined that the tailings piles were eroding into Red Devil Creek, carrying with them high concentrations of mercury, arsenic, and antimony. It was done to provide some help to the area until site-wide clean up can take place.

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early action clean up
Photos Showing Early Action at RDM; taken from BLM  January 2015 Newsletter

Now What?  In CERCLA Terms, we are awaiting the release of the Proposed Plan.

CERCLA Process Where are we now
Superfund CERCLA Process Flowchart

According to Mike McCrum, the Red Devil Mine Project Manager with the BLM,  the BLM has finalized the Feasibility Study (FS) and developed a draft Proposed Plan, which is still under review by the EPA and AK DEC, and cannot yet be made public.

 

 

žThis plan will describe BLM’s preferred site-wide cleanup method. They anticipate the Proposed Plan will be ready to present to communities in the fall of 2015 or the following spring.

After they receive and consider public comment, they can then develop a Record of Decision.  That will be the final document that will define what action(s) will be taken,  cleanup levels, and future monitoring requirements.

žIf you have time to read and  translate the scientific terminology of the Feasibility Study or Remedial Investigation found here, you may notice that a large amount of focus is on the tailings, and not much time is spent on the groundwater.  This is because the initial Study focused on tailings and related contaminated soil.

The BLM is now working on what they are calling the supplemental RI, which will focus on groundwater and Kuskokwim River sediment. A draft of this report was completed in May 2016 and is currently under review.  Once complete, they will follow the steps outlined above – eventually coming to a decision on how to cleanup the groundwater and river sediment.

žStay tuned for more updates, we will let you know when the first Proposed Plan is out for public review and commenting.

Since Georgetown is just downriver from the RDM site and we have been documenting high levels of Arsenic in the groundwater wells there, your comments will be important!!

 

EC Kate Schaberg/08.19.2016

 

 

 

Where Do You Stand

Where you stand looking out at the landscape above is in one of the most pristine places of Alaska I have experienced.  I’ve been up to Fairbanks and down to Homer, over to Kodiak and more…and still, this place stands out. There is just something about it…you can sense the sacred nature of it, and almost feel its history.

Unfortunately, keeping it this way isn’t something that will just happen.  We’ve got to work together to ensure the protection of the environment here.

So, where do you stand?

So far, we’ve got 13 Tribal Member responses to the Environmental Survey that will show us where you stand on what is important.  At the top is the protection of subsistence resources, followed closely behind by water quality, traditional ecological knowledge & the health of the watershed.

graph of priorities 2016

Do you agree?  Or do you think we should be more focused on climate change or what’s going on with the mining of resources on the Kuskokwim near Georgetown?

Drink a cup of coffee, think back to your time in Georgetown.  Take our survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZS76GHV.  Let us know where you stand!

Small bonus (each person with a completed survey before August 26th will be entered to win one of these hoodies donated by Salmon Sisters):

 

 EC Kate Schaberg/08.09.16

 

 

Make Your Voice Heard

The Environmental Department has put together a survey to get input from all Georgetown members.  The goal is to be able to focus our attention on the issues you feel are most important.   We’d love to hear from each and every one of you about what you feel is most important to the Native Village of Georgetown.

It takes a whole village to not only raise a child, but also to preserve and protect the natural resources for the generations to come.

The survey only takes a minute or so to complete:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZS76GHV

Thanks so much,

 

EC, Kate Schaberg 07.29.16

Georgetown Environmental Committee Looking for 3rd Seat Member

We are fast approaching the Annual Meeting for the Native Village of Georgetown, which will be held on August 27 this year.  This year, not only will two council seats be filled by general election for the Tribal Council, but we are excited to announce we will also be appointing one seat which is open on the Environmental Committee as well.

Currently seated on the Environmental Committee are Georgetown Tribal Members, Renee Fredericks and Debby Hartman. We would love to have another Georgetown member join us this year for quarterly meetings and discussions.

How often and where are the meetings held?  Meetings are held either on the phone or in person in the Anchorage office.  Travel is paid, pizza is free and delicious!

Where can I learn more about the Environmental Department?    Check out our website!

What kind of projects are there? The committee helps point the Environmental Department in the direction they think is most important to the Tribe and land.  They do this by developing planning materials, and helping facilitate current projects.  Current projects include water quality testing, documenting Tribal Ecological Knowledge, Environmental Education for the Kuskokwim area, and more.

Have more questions about what it’s like to be on the Committee?  Give me a call, send me an e-mail, or chat with Renee or Debby.

What is the deadline for volunteering?  Let me know by August 26 if you are interested!

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Til Next Time….

EC, Kate Schaberg 07.28.16

 

 

 

 

Fireweed: Marking a Change In Time, Seasons and…this year, Staff Members

Another year, another beautiful summer throughout Alaska; and the fireweed is in full bloom…hard to ignore with its vibrant colors and impressive height.  And the thought that surfaces with it is almost unstoppable: “Is the summer really almost over?”

For the GTC Environmental Department, it marks not only a change in time but also a change in staff.  Jonathan Samuelson, Georgetown Tribal Member, leaves his position as the Environmental Coordinator – out to experience the next great adventure in life!  He has been a very important part of this department, and we are very glad that he will maintain his role working as the Georgetown delegate for the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission.We wish him much luck and are certain he will continue to bring great influences to not only the Environmental department, but the Tribe as a whole.

Filling his role as the Environmental Coordinator – well that’s me…My name is Kate Schaberg.  I worked previously in this role from 2012-2014 and it seems I can’t stay away. I have a sincere interest in helping protect the environmental resources surrounding Georgetown, important to so many – whether you currently reside in Georgetown or nearby, visit frequently or just think back on your time there with fond memories, as I do.

A little bit about me: My husband and I have got two little munchkins running around with a 7 month old puppy to keep things exciting.  We enjoy camping, fishing, berry picking, and doing lots of house projects.  I’m also a very amateur photographer (which I love!) and I like to make jellies and jams, quilts, and other various crafty stuff.  I graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and have been doing a mixture of environmental jobs and customer service / management related positions ever since.

 

I am really looking forward to the work we have coming up – topics covering Environmental Education, Tribal Ecological Knowledge, and Water Quality to name a few – ones we will most certainly keep you informed about and hope to involve you in… For now, if you’d like to learn more about our program, please visit our website.  If you have questions you can contact me at kate.schaberg@georgetowntc.com.

And as for that fireweed?  Well, I guess my best advice is to ignore it, embrace it or just pick it to use in some yummy jams! No matter your choice – enjoy the rest of the summer.  Til next time..

 

 

Ready the Nets!



Fishing opportunities of the Kuskokwim. 

From Aniak up to the Holitna
Subsistence fishing with 6-inch or less mesh gillnets*, not to exceed 25 fathoms, will be allowed for 48 hours from 12:00 p.m. noon, Sunday, June 12 until 12:00 p.m. noon, Tuesday, June 14, 2016.   
From the Holitna up to the Headwaters.
Subsistence fishing with 6-inch or less mesh gillnets* will be allowed from 12:00 p.m. noon, Sunday, June 12 until further notice.

Mouth of the Kuskokwim up to Aniak
12 hour fishing opportunity for federally qualifiedsubsistence users for Chinook & Chum
Sunday, June 12, 2016 from 12:01 p.m. (noon) until 11:59 p.m. (midnight).
Gillnets* 6-inch mesh or less and up to 45 meshes deep.
From the Mouth to the Johnson River up to 50 fathoms (300ft)
Above the Johnson to Aniak: up to 25 fathoms (150ft). 

Gillnets are prohibited on the following tributaries:

Eek, Kwethluk, Kasigluk, Kisaralik, Tuluksak, and Aniak Rivers


Beginning at 12 noon Sunday, June 12: Any Chinook caught with any type of gear may be kept, until further notice.
*Gillnets can be set or used to drift.
We will keep updated with further opportunities and or restrictions as they unfold throughout the fishing season.

We are happy that people will be able to harvest some fresh fish and would still like to encourage conservation for all salmon, but especially the Kings. 

Here is a link to the full news release form ADF&G : http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/applications/dcfnewsrelease/666326825.pdf

5.27.16 Fishing Restrictions

We are still in a time of conservation.
The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group met yesterday. The only real action that came out of the meeting was a motion to support the Fish Commission’s recommendation for a 72 hour opening for 4” mesh set net on the main stem of the Kuskokwim prior to June 1. The motion passed, however, this was just to support the recommendation and does not in-fact open the river for fishing. It is nice to see all legs of the management stool sit down at the table and have meaningful dialogue regaurding our salmon.  Co-Management is key! 
Here’s a current review of restrictions in place.

Effective May 20, 2016 from the Mouth of the Kuskokwim up to the Holitna:

Subsistence fishing with gillnets is closed.
Subsistence fishing with gillnets is also closed on the following tributaries:
            Kwethluk River
            Kuskokuak Slough
            Kasigluk and Kisaralik Rivers
            Tuluksak River
            Aniak River
           
Subsistence fishing on the entire main stem, as well as all tributaries (including those listed above) is allowed with the following gear type: Hook and line, dip nets, beach seines, and fish wheels.  Fish wheels must have a live box, be checked at least every 6 hours. Wheels can be equipped with a chute but must be closely attended while in operation.  ANY CHINOOK CAUGHT WITH ANY OF THE MENTIONED GEAR MUST BE RETURNED ALIVE BACK INTO THE WATER.
           
All restrictions listed above will be effective June 1, 2016from the Holitna up to the headwaters.

Please remember we are in a time of conservation and we need to let those kings go if we’d like to see them in the future. 

Fisheries Commission Marks Milestone

After what may have seemed like a quiet winter and off-season, the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission convened in Bethel on May 11-12.  This is only the second time all Tribes of the Kuskokwim, as many as could make it at least, gathered to discuss the role of the Commission and the management capabilities that it holds.  Quietly, over the last several months, the Executive Council of the KRITFC (elected by fellow commissioners last May) have been putting together an MOU with the US Fish & Wildlife Service.  After being approved by the Commission a small signing ceremony was held to commemorate the monumental step toward co-management of fisheries on the Kuskokwim.  What does the MOU do exactly? In a nutshell, it formalizes a management partnership where the USFWS and the Federal in-season manager will consult with the Commission and incorporate their knowledge and strategies into decision-making.  As it stands now the river is Federally managed from the mouth up to a boundary at Aniak. From Aniak to the Headwaters, the river is managed by the State. The Commission’s next step is to work out a similar agreement with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.  The Commission aims for a unified co-management system for the river and does not recognize the State/Federal boundary, having these agreements in place allows for that drainage wide approach.  The KRITFC has made strides in the last year for giving Tribes a voice at the table and assuring that their leg of the management the stool is present, they are building a model for co-management.  
The appointed commissioner for Georgetown is Jonathan Samuelson, if you have any questions or concerns he can be reached by email at samuelson.jk@gmail.com 

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