Friday, December 28, 2012

Update on EIS Progress in Proposed Donlin Gold Project
December 28, 2012

Amanda Shearer & Don Kuhle from the US Army Corps of Engineers hosted another teleconference for federally recognized tribes on 12/12/12. 

The big news noted in this call was the Notice of Intent (NOI) publication.  If you remember from the NEPA process post, this is the first official step in kicking off the EIS process.  To view the Notice of Intent, visit the following site:

The NOI was published on December 14, 2014 and this was the kickoff to  the official scoping process – where meetings and information from public and other agencies will be gathered.  Concerns/recommendations will be noted and following the scoping period, alternatives to the project will be suggested based on information gathered from this scoping process.

The USACE is the lead agency on the EIS project, and they have hired an outside company – URS to develop the EIS.  A join URS/USACE website has been developed and is a great way to stay informed on what is going on and how you can be involved.  Visit their page for more information:

The scoping process will last until the end of March – at which point all comments will be compiled and put into the draft EIS.  Remember, this is an important time to make your concerns/comments heard, as they will be addressed in the intial draft phase of the EIS. 


Public scoping meetings will begin and take place as follows:

Monday, January 14, 2013
6:00 p.m.
Yup’iit Piciryarait Cultural Center
Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
6:00 p.m.
Aniak High School
Crooked Creek
Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
6:00 p.m.
Tribal Council Office
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
6:00 p.m.
Wilda Marston Theatre
Further meetings will be scheduled as follows:
January/February 2013
Quinhagak • Kipnuk • Nunapitchuk • Akiak
February 2013
Toksook Bay • Hooper Bay • Emmonak • Saint Mary’s
March 2013
Holy Cross • McGrath

What are your thoughts on the Donlin Gold Project? Do you plan on attending the scoping meeting to voice your concerns/comments?  Comment below to share your thoughts!

Interim Results from BLM Conducted Fish Tissue Study

December 28, 2012

The George River

On December 20, 2012 BLM issued an interim report entitled “Mercury, Arsenic, and Antimony in Aquatic Biota from the Middle Kuskokwim River Region, Alaska, 2010-2011”.

Since 2010, the BLM and ADF&G have collected fish tissue samples from the Kuksokwim River and 17 of its tributaries, covering 730 miles of stream from McGrath to Aniak.  Over 1200 fish from the area were sampled, 570 of which were tagged with radio transmitters. Their movements will continue to be tracked over the next 1-2 years.  The tracking data will show the amount of time fish spend in specifc areas and allow the identification of areas that may contribute to elevated metals in fish within the study area.  

The interim report summarizes results and interpretation of mercury, arsenic, and antimony concentrations in fish and aquatic insects collected.  

In the summary located in the interim report, the following items are noted:

Most sampled fish were those favored by subsistence users, and other fish and insects were sampled to be representative of different places on the food chain.  Salmon were not sampled, due to the fact that they spend a good portion of their lives in the ocean.

Small fish (slimy sculpin, juvenile Dolly Varden and juvenile Arctic grayling) and insects from Red Devil and Cinnabar Creeks had significantly higher mercury concentrations than the same fish from other tributaries.  These levels exceeded “harmful levels” when compared to known harmful levels for fish.

Northern pike, burbot, and Arctic grayling had variable mercury levels across the entire Kuskokwim River area.

Northern pike from the George River had significantly higher mercury concentrations compared to other pike (the upcoming tracking results should give more indication of the reason for this elevation).

Total arsenic and antimony concentrations were higher in fish and insects collected from Red Devil Creek as compared to all other Tributaries.  

Results to date indicate that there is “a measurable and biologically significant elevation of mercury” in fish and insects in Red Devil Creek, and it is noted that similar levels are found near other abandoned mines in the middle Kuskokwim River watershed (Cinnabar Creek, located in the upper Holitna Drainage, on the George River).  

The BLM plans to present results from this study in February at the Alaska Forum on the Environment.  For more information, contact Matt Varner, Fisheries Biologist, at 907-271-3348.  

The Interim report can be found at 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Climate Change – Glaciers, People & Options
OSU Climate Change Webinar Series
Speaker: Lonnie Thompson
Date: 10/29/12

I recently had the opportunity to attend an OSU hosted webinar on Climate Change regarding glaciers, people and options.  Lonnie Thompson was the speaker.  Thompson is a paleoclimatologist and University professor at the Ohio State University(OSU).  He has achieved global recognition for his drilling and analysis of ice cores from mountain glaciers and ice caps in many parts of the world. I’d like to share with you some of what I learned.

Both natural and non-natural mechanisms are impacting our climate.  Natural mechanisms include changes in the sun, and changes in the amount of volcanic dust going into the atmosphere.  Non-natural mechanisms include things like aerosols, particles from burning fossil fuels, and the increasing concentration of the amount of greenhouse gasses.  

The stratosphere is cooling while the troposphere and surface are warming in concert.  A bit of background: the troposphere is closest to the Earth’s surface and is the layer of the atmosphere where all weather takes place.  The stratosphere is above the troposphere and contains the ozone layer, which is primarily responsible for absorbing the UV radiation from the sun.  A glacier in East Antarctica (EPICA Dome C) records changes in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere that have occurred for over 800,000 years.  Carbon Dioxide and Methane have oscillated for this time period on a fairly regular basis, but are currently way over that which they have been, and are predicted to increase even more.  The main driver for this prediction is population: the projected population of the Earth by 2050 is 9 billion.  Not to mention the increase in livestock, crops and energy consumption needed to maintain that kind of number.

There are many systems in nature that can be used to look at the Earth’s historical patterns in weather: tree rings, corals, pollen, ocean and lake sediments and ice cores are just some examples.  This webinar focused on ice cores.  Ice cores can give scientists information about historical temperatures, atmospheric chemistry, net accumulation, the dustiness of the atmosphere, vegetation changes, and volcanic history.  Ice is the best indicator of climate change – as the planet warms, ice melts. There’s no denying that correlation.

Some of the glaciers/ice caps that were noted in this presentation are retreating at rapid rates and are listed here: 
Quelccaya Ice Cap in the Peruvian Andes (the largest body of ice in the world)
McCall Glacier in the Brooks Range, Alaska
Muir Glacier in Southeast Alaska
Kyetrak Glacier in the Eastern Himalayas
Kilimanjaro in Africa

Just a couple of things I noted were how widespread this occurrence is, and how long this has been going on.  Try doing an internet search on any of these glaciers, the images that come up of receding ice is mind boggling. Pictured here is McCall Glacier in Alaska, photos taken from

I searched for Kilimanjaro glacier just now as I am writing this article -  and found this newspaper article, posted 9 hours ago:

My point? This issue is global and it isn’t going away.

Some of the ice that has been retreating is uncovering ancient plants, that when recovered and aged are showing that the ice hasn’t retreated this far in over 5,000 years in some cases.  As ice retreats, sea levels rise – and how does that impact the human population? -  Loss in coastline, increased occurrence of avalanches, loss of resources and livestock in some cases.

The number of natural disasters/events from 1980 to 2010 has increased tremendously.  The number of fatalities from these occurrences is huge as compared to 30 year averages.  

What are the ingredients for the perfect disaster and what do we do about it?  Thompson suggests the following: the long lifetime of CO2, climate system inertia (it takes 20-30 years to see impact of efforts made now), a lack of positive feedback from the changes we make given the two previous elements, and finally - our addiction to fossil fuels.  It sounds like we have three choices here: Prevention, Adaptation or Suffering.  We can try to prevent the perfect disaster by reducing the pace and magnitude of climate change by the activities we choose, we can adapt  and try to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change or we can suffer through the impacts as they occur.  

Want more information?  Thompson gave these websites as a source:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

US Army Corps of Engineers holds Informational meeting for Federally Recognized Tribes Regarding Proposed Donlin Gold Project

October 30, 2012

A conference call for federally recognized tribes in the area of proposed Donlin Gold mine project was hosted by US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) representatives Amanda Shearer and Don Kuhle.

USACE confirmed that they received a preliminary permit application from Donlin Gold in July – kicking off NEPA process for EIS.  As lead federal agency, USACE is responsible for preparing EIS before issuing any permits required from them.  Many other federal and state permits will be required but they are in the lead.

USACE stated that they received Donlin’s application on July 26, and since then Donlin Gold has sent out request for proposals to several contractors and identified URS Alaska, LLC as the third party contractor that will prepare EIS.  They will report to USACE as they write the EIS (but are funded by Donlin).   USACE are also working on developing a list of cooperating agencies.  Several tribes from the middle Kuskokwim have expressed interest in becoming cooperating agencies, Crooked Creek among them. Some tribes expressed interest in being cooperating agencies, but were unsure about how to fund travel to meetings and time for project involvement.

Tribes participating in the process through Gov’t to gov’t  relationship will have early opportunities for draft EIS review.

Questions asked

What will EIS do? 
Documents current environmental conditions and addresses impacts project will have.

How long will it take? 
3 years, possibly longer

Will there be a separate EIS for each part of project?
No, they have decided that since all areas of project are related, they will do only one EIS including all project areas.

When will next contact be made from USACE?  
They just received public inforomation plan from URS yesterday, and will review that and decide.  At the least, we will receive information when NOI is filed.   At some point, URS will have a website with information.
From December through next year (possibly into March), 13 community scoping meetings will be held.  Anchorage meeting should be mid December.

As more information becomes available, I will be sure to keep you informed.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Donlin Gold 3rd Quarter Update 
October 12, 2012

October 11, 2012 Webcast – Greg Lang, President of NovaGold gives 3rd Quarter update: 

Highlights from the third quarter as related to permitting process-
Nova Gold and Barrick are jointly moving forward together in permitting process.
They submitted plan of operations and wetlands permit application under Section 404 of US Clean Water Act, thus initiating the NEPA Process.
US Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency, and has selected an independent contractor to prepare Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  
A Notice of Intent is expected to be filed within the coming weeks, followed by the public scoping process.  

NEPA Process Steps:
NOI, Public Scoping, Preliminary Draft EIS, Draft EIS, Public Comment period, Final EIS and Permit Issuance, 30 Day Appeal

Impacts to be covered in the EIS include:
Hydrology, air and water quality, wetlands, fish and aquatic habitat, wildlife, socioeconomics, threatened and endangered species, land use and subsistence, noise, cumulative impacts, cultural resources, recreation safey and feasibility.

For a more detailed overview of NEPA process, please follow this link


GTC received a letter in the mail from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), sent September 27, 2012.  A summary of this letter is as follows:

The USACE, in cooperation with the EPA, BLM, and ADNR is participating in the development of an EIS for the proposed Donlin Mine Project.  The project is located in Western AK, approximately 10 miles from Crooked Creek.

Infrastructure plans include:
- Two ports on the Kuskokwim River
- A 312 mile, 14 inch diameter natural gas pipeline from Cook Inlet to the north of Crooked Creek
- Navigation and pipeline crossing of the Kuskokwim River
- Diesel storage at Dutch Harbor and Bethel
- A 30 mile long road
- A Hercules/C-130 airstrip
- A man camp
- Power generation (157 megawatts, equivalent to a city the size of Fairbanks)
- An open mine pit 2.5 miles long by 0.75 miles wide by 1800 ft dep
- A tailings impoundment/waste treatment facility 1.5 miles long by 1 mile wide

Total footprint of 16,300 acres.  Donlin predicts that the mine would mill 59,000 short tons of ore per day, to obtain 1.3 million ounces of gold per year over a 27.5 year mine operational life.
The 37.5 total years includes 5 years construction time and 5 years reclamation time.

USACE, as the lead federal agency, has the responsibility for EIS process, as well as government to government coordination with tribes. The consultation process provides affected federally recognized tribes with opportunities for participation in the federal permitting process.  GTC will have several opportunities to participate and provide input.  GTC will attend an informational teleconference to begin discussing the scope and nature of the proposed project and open up dialogue on October 30, 2012.

Check back for more updates as this process continue

Storms and Winds and Floods, what's next?

October 12, 2012

Well, as fall dwindles down and winter quickly makes its approach, I can’t help but look back on some of the crazy weather events that have happened in Alaska since I arrived last November.  

In April of 2012, Anchorage broke the snow record set in 1954 of 132.6 inches.  May didn’t bring much relief, with spring breakup causing flooding in many villages along the Kuskokwim. 

 And then there was summer.   

Wait, what summer?  

No wonder we barely noticed it with July being the fourth coldest in Anchorage history, according to the National Weather Service.  The temperature in Alaska’s largest city averaged 56.3 degrees for the month.  In fact this July, we saw only three days with a temperature of 70 degrees or more.  

September brought with it powerful wind storms, gusting up to 130 mph in some areas of Anchorage, knocking down trees and leaving thousands without power, a lot of which didn’t see power again for several days. 

And then there was the rain…days of rain gave way to flooding across Southcentral Alaska, causing some communities like Talkeetna to evacuate.  Many roads were washed out or closed from Talkeetna to Seward, and landslides were reported.  The governor declared a state disaster for areas hit by flooding. 

Photo credit: Rob Stewart at Salmon River Weir, ADF&G

And just as I began thinking, if it’s going to be so wet out, I’d rather just have snow….we got it.  I woke up on September 29th to at least 2 or 3 inches of snow in my backyard.  

Careful what you wish for.
It’s almost been a year since I’ve been here…I’m almost afraid to ask – what else could there be???

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Red Devil Mine Update - September 2012

September 9, 2012

An article published on August 20, 2012 in The Alaska Dispatch describes dissatisfaction with the cleanup at the Red Devil Mine site.  The federal government owns the mine site, but the state argues that the BLM has been slow to clean it up.  

As directed by Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, attorney general Michael Geraghty asked the EPA to place the 10 acre Red Devil site on the superfund national priorities list.  Doing so would place the former mine site on the nation’s list of most hazardous sites, helping it to get properly cleaned up and would also give the EPA final say on the clean up.  The EPA received this letter, and is reviewing options.  

BLM has resisted giving control to the EPA, and states they are taking the proper steps, and following federal cleanup laws – the same Superfund process the EPA would take.  They also noted they are working closely with the state and the EPA on the investigation.

The Kuskokwim Corporation, a consortium of 10 Alaska Native village corporations in the region, also worries about BLM’s cleanup efforts, and would like to see the EPA list Red Devil as a Superfund site.  

For full article please see:    

The Anchorage Daily News also reported on the topic in an article published on August 24, 2012: 

The same month, BLM issued a newsletter, giving an update on the Environmental Investigation.

It states that BLM continues work on a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility study for the RDM site.  The BLM collected samples during 2010 and 2011.  The results were analyzed to better understand potential impacts to the environment as a result of tailings left on site by past mine operations.  A draft RI report was created, and BLM is addressing comments and suggestions made by the state and the EPA.  The BLM will collect additional samples this September, and new data will be included in a revised RI report, expected to be finalized in the Spring of 2013.   A separate study has been underway on fish contaminants, and results of the 2010 data are available at  

BLM states that its next steps will be to use data from the Remedial Investigation to develop cleanup alternatives for the Feasibility Study.  They will then meet with communities from the Kuskokwim River, and address comments questions or concerns.  

SAFETY REMINDER:  BLM would like to remind you to not enter the Red Devil Mine site for any purpose, including subsistence activities.  The BLM has installed a second gate at the site and additional signage.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September Water Quality Sampling
September 6, 2012 

That's the view from a Cessna 207 of Sleetmute, AK on our flight from Sleetmute to Aniak.  Will and I went out to Georgetown for our Fall water testing.  For more information on the testing itself, visit our Water Quality - Results page.

I don’t know about Will, but I was expecting rain and cold - we seemed to luck out and miss the rain they’d been having for the previous few days, if not weeks.  It was a fairly quiet trip - I spotted a moose on the banks of the Kuskokwim on our way down from Sleetmute.  We had lots of flights this time - our journey consisted of layovers in Aniak and Bethel before heading back to Anchorage.  Like always, it was nice to just have a day or two of quiet, away from town.

All was well in Georgetown, and yup - the water is still good!  It was revealing for me to get an aerial view of GTC’s land.  It looks a lot bigger and grander with this sort of view, although the view from Anne’s house is hard to beat.  I can only imagine how nice it would be to wake up, day after day, with a view such as this one.  For now, a flight overhead will have to do.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Bears of The Kisaralik
August 13, 2012

Following the 2012 Georgetown Tribal Council Annual meeting, I had the opportunity to travel the banks of the Kisaralik.  As I spoke with tribal members following the meeting about my upcoming trip, I was given these pieces of information about the Kisaralik:

  1. For many, visiting the Kisaralik was a favorite childhood past-time.
  2. It’s beautiful.
  3. The fishing is tremendous
  4. Watch out for bears...there are a lot of them!

So I was excited for the trip, if not a bit apprehensive.  
So what’s the verdict...True or False?
Here are some photos from our trip that should answer that question.

The Kisaralik River - it IS Beautiful.

A Brown bear takes a swim, then shakes it off.

This mama bear checks us out before proceeding along the bank with her two cubs.
Having survived the trip, I can attest to three of these four observations.  I know, I doesn’t count unless you have the picture to prove it - well you’ll have to take my word on that one...we caught grayling, Dolly Varden and Rainbow trout.  Not only that, but we were able to gather information and pictures regarding salmon in their natural spawning grounds.  

As for childhood memories/favorite past times,  I can only imagine, but I’d love to hear the stories you may have from your visits! 

Email me at to share, I’d love to post your stories too.  

OH and 
did I mention it’s beautiful there?