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Environment

Environmental stories that take place in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

Katie Basile / KYUK

 Red Devil Part II

Leann Morgan stands at a makeshift table on bank of the Kuskokwim River, cutting a huge northern pike. Leann and her father, Joe Morgan, make pike a regular part of their subsistence diet. They eat salmon, lush, and sheefish. In the fall, they hunt moose. But the pike they eat contain high levels of mercury. So high, in fact, that the federal government issued a warning to Elders, children, and pregnant women to limit how much they eat from the area. But Leann and Joe aren’t worried.


Katie Basile / KYUK

This is a three-part series reported from a village of 20 people on the Upper Kuskokwim River that stands to gain the most from the proposed Donlin Mine. Many villages in the region are conflicted over the mine. Red Devil was built by mining almost 100 years ago and now carries a toxic legacy of mine pollution, but to most of its residents, the Donlin Gold mine represents hope. Like so many communities in Alaska, resource extraction is both a lifeline and a risk. 


Katie Basile / KYUK

A fire has consumed a house in Bethel. The fire started sometime before 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1. The house, commonly referred to as the “Polk Home," is located on the road to H-Marker Lake. Acting City Manager Bill Howell said that there were no injuries and no fatalities reported and that the Bethel Fire Department has the fire under control. 

Carl Smith, age 17, and his mother, Kimberly Smith of Akiak, returned to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta after traveling to New York City.
Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK

This week, 16 young people from a dozen countries filed a legal complaint about climate change with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The complaint alleges that five G20 countries are violating children’s rights by failing to curb fossil fuel emissions to try to restrain the climate crisis. The youth filed their complaint in New York City during the same week that the United Nations convened for its Climate Action Summit. One of the teenage petitioners traveled to the event from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.


Snow has come to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. In Emmonak, resident Lilly Westlock estimates that over an inch fell on Tuesday evening.

Akiak receives funding to move the 6 homes closest to the eroding riverbank.
Greg Kim / KYUK

Sixteen young people from a dozen countries filed a legal complaint about climate change with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The petitioners range in age from eight to 17. Their complaint alleges that five countries, Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey, are violating children’s rights by failing to curb fossil fuel emissions and reduce the effects of the climate crisis. The youth filed their complaint the same week the United Nations is convening for its Climate Action Summit in New York City. One of the petitioners comes from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.


Screen shot from the National Weather Service Anchorage Office on September 10, 2019 showing current hazards. Purple means storm warning.
National Weather Service

A fall storm forming over the Bering Sea is expected to hit the coasts of the Kuskokwim Delta and Bristol Bay on Wednesday. The National Weather Service predicts that the storm will strike hardest on Wednesday with driving winds and heavy rainfall, and taper into showers and breezes by Thursday.

Akiak receives funding to move the 6 homes closest to the eroding riverbank.
Greg Kim / KYUK

Money is arriving to help move some buildings in Akiak to safer ground. Last week, the village of Akiak received funding to move the six homes closest to the eroding riverbank. One of those homes is within 20 feet of the water. 

The high-water erosion event in May swallowed 75 to 100 feet of Akiak's riverbank.
Ivan Ivan / City of Akiak

The village of Akiak has submitted its hazard mitigation plan to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That makes Akiak eligible for the larger-than-usual hazard mitigation funding that Alaska has available this year, due to the Nov. 2018 earthquake in the southcentral part of the state. But how did Akiak know to take advantage of that? They had some unique help.


People ride on a four wheeler in front of the Napakiak school fuel tanks, which sit 76 feet from the Kuskokwim River following accelerating erosion. Pictured here on August 8, 2019.
Katie Basile / KYUK

The U.S. Coast Guard calls the Napakiak school fuel tanks an “environmental hazard” to the Kuskokwim River and has ordered the fuel’s removal. An officer says that the Coast Guard could not issue the order until the situation got serious enough.


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