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

Kuskokwim River Breaches Banks At Napaimute

Apr 29, 2020
Break-up begins on the Kuskokwim River in front of Napaimute, Alaska on April 29, 2020.
Ben Leary / KYUK

The ice broke up in front of Napaimute around 1 a.m. on April 29. Resident Ben Leary reported that the fast moving river flooded the bank later that morning, with water levels going halfway up his smokehouse.

River ice nearing the top of the riverbank in Red Devil April 27.
Ruby Egrass

Villages in the Y-K Delta are preparing for a greater chance of flooding than in recent years, according to the National Weather Service. The state’s emergency operations center is carefully watching the melting ice on rural rivers to see if it will need to intervene, which could include flying entire villages to hubs like Bethel or Anchorage.

Kuskokwim River Ice Still Holding In McGrath

Apr 23, 2020

The ice moved out of Nikolai on Monday, April 20, but is still holding further down the Kuskokwim River in McGrath. Public radio station KSKO's general manager, Dave Patty, went out on the river earlier on Thursday, April 23. He said that there was more open water near shore, but the tripod for McGrath’s Ice Classic was still standing.  

Weekend rains softened Kuskokwim River ice in front of Napaimute, pictured here on April 20, 2020.
Ben Leary

The ice cleared on the Kuskokwim River above Nikolai on April 21, but an ice jam is developing 24 miles downstream at the North Fork. Residents of Nikolai are watching it carefully and preparing for possible flooding.

This photo of Walter Betz's house on Osage Avenue surrounded by water was taken April 18.
Beverly Hoffman

Ice is melting in the Y-K Delta. With abnormally high snowfall during one of the coldest winters in years, people are expecting more water and more flooding than usual this spring. Some Bethel residents are already seeing high water levels around their homes, and city administration is planning for the scenario where people need to evacuate.

Katie Basile / KYUK

The Red Devil mercury mine used to be the largest in the state. But once it was no longer profitable, the owners walked away, leaving behind a toxic mess for someone else to clean up. The federal government has laid out how it wants to clean up the site, and it wants to make sure the affected communities weigh in. 

Courtesy of Mark Leary

The ice road on the frozen Kuskokwim River has been plowed to its longest length ever: 355 miles.

That’s longer than most traditional highways in the state, but it’s likely a bit rougher in places since that the road is a frozen river. Still, it allows for snowmachine and vehicle traffic in a region that otherwise relies on unpredictable airplane travel in the winter. 

Courtesy of Mark Leary

The river is so rough in the Upper Kuskokwim area that it is impassable to vehicle and snowmachine traffic. Big boulders of snow-covered ice are scattered across the river from Chuathbaluk and up. But Mark Leary, who works for the village of Napaimute, hopes to clear the river so that people can travel this week.

Katie Basile / KYUK

The final feasibility study detailing cleanup options for the contaminated Red Devil mercury mine site is out. The Bureau of Land Management plans to hold public meetings in the villages near the mine site to collect feedback about the remediation plans.

According to BLM spokesperson James Hart, BLM will open public comments on the plan for 60 days, beginning March 1 and ending April 30.

Future Of Salmon In A Warming World – Part 2

Feb 11, 2020

In the first of a two-part series, we explored the effects of warming river water on salmon. Now we take a look at the warming ocean, and what that means to the Yukon River king run.