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Environment

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

Fourth of July Fireworks Legal Again In Bethel

Jul 2, 2019
Snohomish County City

The fire danger may be too high in the rest of the state for Fourth of July fireworks, but not in Bethel and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. On Tuesday, July 2, the state lifted a ban on fireworks sales and use in Western Alaska.

If you are looking to light up the already sunlit sky for the Fourth of July, you are out of luck. Alaska officials have banned using and selling fireworks because hot, dry conditions throughout the state have made the risk of fires too great.

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

Akiak lost a mile-long stretch of riverbank to erosion last month. Six houses are now within 100 feet of the riverbank and need to be moved as soon as possible, but some people don’t want to move. 


Boots are on the ground in Mertarvik. The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps started work on Wednesday, helping the community construct a new site for the Village of Newtok. Newtok invited the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct its Innovations Readiness Training in Mertarvik. The training allows reserve forces to practice setting up infrastructure in unfamiliar environments. Over the next 10 weeks, military personnel will construct a gravel road, a landfill, a heavy equipment shop, and four homes in Mertarvik.

Wildfire near Napaimute burns 80 acres of land.
Brandon Leary

Wildfire season has begun on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. A fire that ignited 3 miles from Napaimute along the upper Kuskokwim River burned 80 acres on Friday, May 31. 

Katie Basile / KYUK

The May smelt run on the Kuskokwim river heralds the arrival of king salmon and other traditional subsistence foods. There had been almost no studies on the small fish until Donlin Gold proposed building one of the biggest gold mines in the world in the Y-K Delta. The company says that the data they’re collecting will help determine how future barge traffic from the mine will impact the smelts, but residents who oppose the mine say that the study isn’t enough.  


Tarp used to secure riverbank following erosion in Akiak.
Ivan Ivan / City of Akiak

Akiak lost a mile-long stretch of riverbank to erosion two weeks ago. In some parts of that mile, the Kuskokwim River moved 75 feet closer to the community. The shift has put one house within 15 feet of the river. Several others also need to relocate immediately.

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

People in Akiak woke up on Monday to find their smokehouses in the river. Massive erosion along the riverbank had eaten those structures earlier that morning.

Quinhagak Begins To Look At Climate Change

May 20, 2019
Katie Basile / KYUK

Like many coastal communities in Alaska, Quinhagak is keeping a close eye on how warmer temperatures are affecting the community. Located with the ocean in front of it, and two rivers and a swamp on the other sides, Quinhagak is assessing the hazards, everything from sea water rise to increased river erosion and permafrost melt.

Krysti Shallenberger / KYUK

Napakiak doesn’t have a boat landing anymore. Storms over the past week ate huge chunks from the Kuskokwim riverbank close to the city school and fuel tanks. That includes the banks where people land their boats. The village has been dealing with river erosion for decades, but they’ve seen it accelerate over the past few years because of climate change.

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