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

Kalskag resident Cons Gregory reported that the barge passed by Upper Kalskag on May 4 at around 1:20 pm.
Cons Gregory

On the evening of May 5, Bethel residents caught the peculiar sight of an unattended barge floating down the Kuskokwim River. The barge, filled with gravel and owned by Alaska Logistics, froze in the river near Aniak last October. With the river’s breakup freeing the vessel, it has drifted over 100 miles and looks to be heading out to sea. 

Ice continues to move down the Kuskokwim River past Bethel on May 5, 2020 at 11:30 a.m.
Katie Basile / KYUK

Most places on the Kuskokwim River are not experiencing major flooding, but the ice is moving fast and the water is high. On May 5, Napaskiak resident Earl Samuelson warned that people need to keep an eye out for high water.

Kuskokwim River breakup in front of Bethel, Alaska on the evening of May 3, 2020.
Katie Basile / KYUK

The Kuskokwim River has largely cleared itself of in-place ice, greatly reducing the chances of flooding along the river, according to National Weather Service hydrologist Celine Van Breukelen. She’s flying with the River Watch crew, monitoring breakup conditions along the Kuskokwim.

Courtesy of the National Weather Service

The ice jam near Napaimute is still holding, and villages below Napaimute should brace for flooding if the ice jam releases quickly, according to the latest River Watch report.

The Kuskokwim River ice cleared in front of Aniak on May 1, 2020.
Dave Cannon

An ice jam just below Upper Kalskag is sending rapidly rising water towards the village’s power plant.

An ice jam below Napaimute on April 30, 2020.
Alaska State Troopers

The flooding near Napaimute has devastated most of the cabins at the seasonal village site. The National Weather Service began flying their River Watch crew along the Kuskokwim River this week to monitor break up conditions. Hydrologist Celine Van Breukelen shared her observations from April 30.

Kuskokwim River ice piles onto the Aniak shore on April 30, 2020.
Dave Cannon

Longtime residents of the Kuskokwim River and the National Weather Service are expecting ice jams and flooding this breakup. To reduce the risk of both, some residents have floated the idea of "sanding" the river. The process involves dropping sand from a crop duster airplane onto the ice. The dark sand helps soften the ice so that it is less likely to jam when it cracks. Sanding hasn’t occurred in decades, but one person in Bethel remembers sanding the rivers in the late 1970s, mostly the Yukon River. Tim Meyers shares this memory.

Mark Leary

Communities up and down the Kuskokwim River have already started preparing for flooding. KYUK contacted six communities from Chuathbulak down to Kwethluk. All reported high water, but nothing too serious as of the afternoon of April 30. Residents have dragged snowmachines and other valuable equipment to higher ground.

The Kuskokwim River in front of Aniak on April 30, 2020.
Dave Cannon

An ice jam is holding downstream of Napaimute, flooding the seasonal village. At Aniak, the ice is shifting, according to Aniak resident Dave Cannon. Cannon described the Kuskokwim ice shifting in front of the village during KYUK’s afternoon river update on April 30. He narrated as a huge ice pan moved downstream with six pressure ridges on it, and large chunks of ice were flowing down Aniak Slough.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for communities along the middle Kuskokwim River from Aniak to Akiak.