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

Newtok Is On The Move

Dec 27, 2018
Katie Basile / KYUK

It’s taken more than 20 years, but the Newtok relocation effort is going into hyperdrive this summer. According to plans unveiled by the Alaska Native Health Consortium staff at a meeting of the Newtok Planning group this fall, a huge construction crew is headed to Mertarvik to build the infrastructure for relocating Newtok, the community threated by climate change-fueled erosion. The plan for the 2019 construction season includes a long list of projects.

Katie Basile / KYUK

Donlin Gold has signed an agreement with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to protect some of the Trust's wetlands in the Cook Inlet area. The company is trying to develop one of the biggest gold mines in the world in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and the mine, if built, would disturb 2,800 acres of wetlands. Because Donlin can’t restore all of those wetlands, it is required to protect wetlands somewhere else. 

Napakiak City Council Member Walter Nelson shows where year by year, more of Napakiak’s land has been washed away by the Kuskokwim River. The river eroded 82 feet of land between May 30, 2018 and September 7, 2018. Picture taken December 3, 2018.
Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK

For as long as anyone remembers, Napakiak has been retreating from the Kuskokwim. The village of about 400 people sits on a bend in the river, and every year that bend grows deeper. In recent years, the erosion has accelerated. As the land has fallen away, Napakiak has picked up its homes and buildings and moved them further from the water. 

Katie Basile / KYUK

Donlin Gold is waiting on one important permit for its proposed gold mine in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The state says that it will issue a decision by the end of 2018. And next year looks pretty busy for Donlin as state agencies prepare for public hearings over more permits. The company needs at least 100 permits before it can start mining.  

A car is islanded on a wrecked Anchorage off-ramp following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck five miles northwest of Anchorage at 8:30 a.m. on November 30, 2018.
Nat Herz / Alaska Public Media

A tsunami warning issued Friday morning for the Southern Kenai Peninsula and Cook Inlet has been cancelled.

The Alaska Earthquake Center is reporting a 7.0 magnitude quake centered five miles northwest of Anchorage near Goose Bay. The quake had a depth of 25 miles and struck around 8:30 a.m.

According to the Anchorage Police Department, there is major infrastructure damage across Anchorage. Many homes and buildings are damaged, and many roads and bridges are closed. Police are asking residents to stay off the roads.

Courtesy of ADF&G

The proposed Donlin gold mine is going through the permitting process and recently picked up 13 Title 16 permits from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Those permits will allow the company to eliminate one salmon stream and partially erase another. 

That has alarmed many people in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, especially since there isn’t a formal public comment process at Fish and Game. A controversial salmon habitat ballot initiative was supposed to fix that, but Alaskans voted it down by a huge margin during the general election earlier this month.

KYUK talked with outgoing commissioner Sam Cotton about Fish and Game’s role in the permitting process for big projects, and how the agency could open it up for more public participation in the future. The following is an interview that has been condensed and edited.  

Katie Basile / KYUK

Donlin Gold, the company developing a proposed gold mine in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, says that it hopes to get most of its major permits out of the way this year. But so far, progress has been a bit slow. 

UAF Alaska Earthquake Center

Updated 5 p.m. Oct. 24, 2018: In an unprecedented event, two earthquakes shook the coast of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Tuesday night. The quakes hit about 45 miles offshore from the community of Hooper Bay, and seismologists are looking closer at the unusual temblors.

The board of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation declared its support this week for a controversial salmon habitat ballot initiative, Alaska Native News reports. 

Katie Basile / KYUK

One of the biggest gold mines in the world could be built along the Kuskokwim River, north of Bethel. The Donlin mine has escaped the intense level of public scrutiny aimed at the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay so far, but it’s much further along in the permitting process.