Friday, January 24, 2014

Unseasonably Warm Weather Wreaks Havoc All Across Alaska

January 24, 2014

Walking to the mailbox has become quite a treacherous journey with ice covering my driveway and road. It seems I could almost start putting plants in my garden outside, since all the snow is practically gone.  But it looks like I’m not the only one affected by this weather. Headlines are everywhere, with warm weather wreaking havoc all over the state:

Alyeska Ski Resort is forced to close for the third time this winter; Schools closed in Glennallen and Fairbanksbecause it’s 40 degrees ABOVE zero; Unseasonably warm weather closes Denali to snowmachines; Warm winter weather may hurt Alaska peony farmers; Big Lake sled dog race cancelled due to unfavorable weather and trail conditions.

According to Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, "On January 20, the high temperature at the Homer Airport was 50°F (10°C). Not only was this a daily record high, but it is just one degree from the all-time record high for January of 51°F (11°C) last set on January 31, 1994."

And that’s not the only weird part- friends down in the lower 48 are doing nothing but talking about the cold temperatures and never ending snow storms! What’s going on here??

"So far this month, weather stations in the Lower 48 have broken or tied more than 2,600 records for cold, while Alaskan weather stations have broken or tied more than 20 daily temperature records for warmth," according to USA Today’s Doyle Rice.

It’s obvious that there has been some sort of flip flop in weather patterns.

According to Alex Sosnowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist for AccuWeather, "The topsy-turvy weather pattern has been produced by a high amplitude jet stream pattern. The jet stream is a fast-moving river of air high in the atmosphere that guides weather systems along and often marks the boundary between cold air to its north and warm air to its south."

Sosnowski explains further, "The jet stream often becomes distorted from its average January position.However, this pattern, in recent weeks, has become quite extreme. It has allowed warmth to push well to the north along the Pacific coast of North America and at the same time has sent frigid air well to the south over the middle of the continent to portions of the Atlantic coast."

I don’t know about you, but because of this backwards jet stream pattern, my ice fishing plans for the weekend certainly have gotten placed on hold. I guess I’ll put my sunglasses and Xtra Tufs on for some puddle jumping instead! 
How is the warm weather affecting you in your town? 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Protecting The Native Village of Georgetown's Future

January 15, 2014

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing a new land use plan for an area in western Alaska that encompasses approximately 62 million acres of land, including 10.6 million acres managed by the BLM.  Follow this link to view the map for the area of land covered.

Resource management plans provide the BLM with comprehensive, long-term direction concerning the use and management of resources on BLM-managed public lands. The BSWI RMP will among other things, provide direction for site-specific activity planning and implementation of specific tasks in the future. Some issues and management concerns the new RMP will address include, but are not limited to:
  • Management of human uses and activities, such as recreation and mining;
  • Protection of areas with critical or unique values, such as wild and scenic rivers; and
  • Management of natural and cultural resources, such as wildlife, fish, cultural sites, and vegetation.
The Bureau of Land Management is requesting input from the public about how these 26.6 million acres of land should be managed, as well as feedback on local resident usage and development issues to consider.  Comments are due on January 17th.

Both Alaska Natives and surrounding communities – approximately 78 communities in all, including Georgetown – depend upon the bounty of these lands and waters and the vast populations of wildlife they support for their livelihoods as commercial fisherman, and for subsistence, cultural and traditional practices.
BLM held several community meetings during the scoping process.  Find out what residents of Chuathbaluk, Crooked Creek, and others had to say.
Comments were made like,
"We frequently use the George River for subsistence moose, caribou, salmon, and trap beaver. There used to be 8,000 people that lived up the George River at one time." 
"We like the way BLM lands are currently managed and do not welcome a lot of change. BLM has little interference in our lives, we would like it to stay that way."  
Specific areas important for fishing, hunting, cultural importance, burial grounds are all encouraged to be documented for the BLM to take into consideration from tribes in the area of the new RMP. For ideas about issues to consider, take a minute to read this page.

Georgetown is in this area! Please make comments today to protect future needs of Georgetown members. 

Add your name to an already drafted comment, with the option to add personal comments here.

OR  submit your own scoping comments to the BSWI Team at

You may also submit comments by regular mail:

BLM Anchorage Field Office
Attn: BSWI Team
4700 BLM Road
Anchorage, AK 99507



Friday, January 10, 2014

Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group Makes Progress During the Jan 8 & 9 Meeting

January 10, 2014

Members of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group (WG) came together on January 8 and 9 to discuss management strategies for the 2014 salmon season, specifically in relationship to the recent decline in Chinook salmon returns on the Kuskokwim River. 

Most of the day on January 8th was spent discussing previous and suggested methods of forecasting the Chinook run, as well as what "went wrong" in the 2013 season, and what will happen differently in 2014. 

January 9th was spent discussing management strategies and goals for the 2014 season.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game suggested the following points in discussion of the 2014 preliminary management strategy:
Kuskokwim River 2014 Preliminary Management Strategy
•Close king salmon sport fishing.
•Tributary subsistence closures June 1 – July 25, similar to previous years
•Start the season on a subsistence fishing schedule, which would keep in mind the following:
–Close salmon fishing early in the season.
–Apply closures/fishing periods based on run timing and travel speed.
–Fishing periods restricted to 6-inch or less mesh size once chum and sockeye are abundant.
–Provide more opportunity (fishing time) in upper river sections.
–Cancel scheduled fishing periods if run assessment indicates abundance is not adequate to achieve escapement goals.
–Reduce closures if run assessment indicates adequate abundance to achieve escapement goals.

A specific schedule has not yet been released, but will be discussed and decided upon closer to the start of the season.

The take home message?

The 2014 Chinook run is predicted to be very similar to last year's run, which was one of the lowest on record.  Depending on the surplus available, opportunity for harvest of Chinook will be very minimal, to ensure escapement goals are met.  All fishermen should be prepared for gear restrictions and closures on the Kuskokwim.  Harvest of other salmon species as well as whitefish will be necessary to fill freezers for the winter.

The feeling in the room? 

Well it was one of concern I'd say.  Concern for the future of the Chinook salmon.  It was also a feeling of comradery: folks from different agencies and organizations and backgrounds all working together to accomplish the goals set forth by the WG, the most important being to conserve Chinook for future generations. 

Some of the objectives that the WG voted on to adopt, as suggested by the Kuskokwim Native Association (KNA), include the following:

1. Achieve the management objective of a Basin Wide escapement of 85,000 Chinook salmon, incorporating the uncertainty of Bethel Test Fishery (BTF) data.
2.  Provide reasonable opportunity for harvest of other salmon (non Chinook) species
3.  Ensure harvest opportunity will be equitable to all subsistence fishers on the Kuskokwim

Spokesmen from villages up and down the river all shared comments in support of the importance and necessity of conserving the Chinook population, and allowing the fish to make it to their spawning grounds.  A recurring theme in these comments was the importance of preserving a resource that is and has been vital to these communities, in order for future generations to be able to experience and treasure the Chinook as has been done since before any of our times.

Monday, January 6, 2014

An Update from BLM Regarding Red Devil Mine
January 6, 2014

Late in December, the GTC received BLM's latest newsletter documenting updates about the clean up at the Red Devil Mine site. 

Some of the important details of this newsletter include results from Remedial Investigation, the consideration of Early Action, and "Next Steps".

The results of the Remedial Investigation confirmed that large piles of tailings near Red Devil Creek "contain high concentrations of mercury, arsenic and antimony."  These tailings are releasing metals into the soil and water.  Is it just in the immediate area?  No.  The newsletter states, "One key finding of the Remedial Investigation was confirmation that contaminated tailings are migrating down Red Devil Creek and into the Kuskokwim River."  This is why BLM is considering Early Action.

According to the newsletter, the Early Action alternatives to address this concern that are being considered include:
1. Lining the section of Red Devil Creek nearest the tailings pile with concrete cloth
2. Installing culvert pipe in the section of Red Devil Creek nearest the tailings.
3. Excavating a new channel in the section of Red Devil Creek nearest the tailings, and moving the tailings pile back from the creek.

Next Steps?  BLM will be hosting an informative session at AFE on February 3; it will outline the alternatives being considered for early action.  Also this January, BLM will be contacting communities along the Kuskokwim to schedule community meetings and tribal consultations during the months of February and March.  Comments and questions at these meetings will be encouraged regarding early action alternatives.

BLM states that input from communities will be considered prior to making a decision on one of the three alternatives.  Each alternative is evaluated based on "how effective it is in preventing tailings migration, how well it can be done (or accomplished), and cost".

If you are interested in being part of a Georgetown meeting with BLM, let us know!

For a copy of the full newsletter, please follow this link.