Bethel BIA Building Demolition Begins Sept. 9

Sep 1, 2020

The gates to the BIA site in Bethel are closed while contractors remove hazardous material from the site and prepare it for demolition.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

Expect to hear booms in Bethel next week. Demolition of the BIA buildings, located at the end of BIA road, will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inherited the BIA site from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1988. The Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, which manages the site, is asking the public to stay out of the area. The site is situated in the nexus of a mini-trail system used by walkers and dog owners. Those trails are currently blocked, and the gate to the site is closed.

Ray Born is managing the project for the refuge. For weeks, he says, contractors have been cleaning hazardous materials from the site, including asbestos, PCB’s, and lead-based paint. Born said that vandalism has slowed the project. The crews have regularly mended cut chain-link fences, and picked up broken bottles.

The area is expected to reopen to the public between mid-October and early November, when the demolition and initial clean-up is completed. By that point, Born says all that will be left of the building will be some concrete slabs, which the refuge will recycle by crushing them into gravel.

Over the next two to four years, the refuge will clean and remediate the entire 45 acres of the site, which has become a depository for abandoned material like building debris, spilled grease, and even an old cement mixer. Twenty-seven of those acres will be given to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation to construct staff housing. The remaining 18 acres will be open to the public for environmental education. The Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge plans to construct a mile-and-a-half long trail there, with kiosks explaining the culture, wildlife, and plants of the area.