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Environment

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

The high-water erosion event in May, 2019 swallowed 75 to 100 feet of Akiak's riverbank.
Ivan Ivan / City of Akiak

Last week, state emergency management officials visited Akiak to see how they can help with the erosion confronting the village. An erosion event last spring left several homes less than 100 feet away from the river. 

Harry Nevak starts filling his boat in Newtok with his family's belongings in order to move them over to Mertarvik.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

When the first families from Newtok relocated to Mertarvik earlier this month, they were asked, “How do you feel?” It’s a question that residents have been confronting over 20 years, as they’ve worked to move away from their eroding village. But how are you supposed to feel when you’ve left your home, your family, and your friends to pioneer a brand new village? Mertarvik residents say that it’s complicated.


The first residents moved into Mertarvik last weekend. About a third of Newtok, the ones closest to the erosion and flooding, will move across the river to the new village throughout this month.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

It was 20 years coming, but it finally began this weekend: the first residents of Mertarvik moved into their new homes. 

Strong westerly winds blowing towards the Western Alaska coast could cause more erosion. Coastal villages from Newtok up to Hooper Bay are warned to tie down any loose property and move it away from the coast, if possible. The National Weather Service says that these winds will last through Saturday.

Jeremy Lee, 31, stands before the burning trailer where he rented a room behind Front Street Cafe in Bethel. Oct. 2, 2019.
Katie Basile / KYUK

Jeremy Lee is just hoping he has a warm place to sleep tonight. On Wednesday, Oct. 2, white smoke rose from the trailer where he'd been renting a room since April. Between him and the smoke stretched a line of emergency vehicles with police officers in blue uniforms and firefighters in yellow turnouts moving between them.


Katie Basile / KYUK

The population of Red Devil, Alaska may be dwindling below 20 residents, but those who remain are fiercely connected through family history and a reliance on the abundant subsistence foods. Carefully manicured lawns, lush vegetable gardens, and tidy homes line the dirt paths of the small community. Summer break allows for school-aged children to return home to Red Devil, bringing energy and welcome noise to what is nearly a ghost town otherwise.

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.


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