KYUK AM

Environment

Environmental stories that take place in 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, 2019 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.


The Napakiak School fuel storage facility sits 76 feet from the riverbank’s erosion point along the Kuskokwim River on Aug. 16, 2019. The fuel storage facility, owned by the Lower Kuskokwim School District, contains an estimated 36,000 gallons of diesel.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Anchorage

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is watching the situation developing with threatened fuel tanks at Napakiak. The U.S. Coast Guard ordered the Lower Kuskokwim School District to move the school’s estimated 36,000 gallons of diesel fuel away from the eroding Kuskokwim riverbank by the end of the month. DEC will determine if more action is needed to treat the site.

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 has given the Lower Kuskokwim School District until the end of the month to remove the diesel fuel from its Napakiak school fuel tanks. The tanks hold about 36,000 gallons of fuel and are sitting less than 100 feet from the eroding Kuskokwim River bank. Both the Coast Guard and LKSD are confident that the school district can meet the deadline.


The Napakiak School fuel storage facility sits 76 feet from the riverbank’s erosion point along the Kuskokwim River on Aug. 16, 2019. The fuel storage facility, owned by the Lower Kuskokwim School District, contains an estimated 36,000 gallons of diesel.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Anchorage

The Lower Kuskokwim School District has two weeks to remove the diesel fuel from the Napakiak school fuel tanks to prevent an environmental disaster. The U.S. Coast Guard issued an administrative order to the school district on Friday, giving them until August 30 to complete the job. 

Children walk through puddles in Napakiak, Alaska on August 4, 2019 as rain drenched Western Alaska
Andrew West

It’s called an “atmospheric river," which is what it sounds like: a channel of very moist air coursing across the globe. And it’s what’s been drenching the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, but a dry patch is now in sight.


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