Monday, February 24, 2014

Early Action for Clean Up at Red Devil Mine  to Take Place Summer of 2014 - Address Your Comments Now Through March 21st, 2014!

February 19, 2014

Red Devil Mine Site - BLM Photo taken from http://www.blm.gov/ak/st/en/fo/ado/hazardous_materials/red_devil_mine.html
 
The Red Devil Mine is an abandoned mercury mine in Western Alaska, just up river from the Native Village of Georgetown.  Operation took place from 1939-1971.  Clean-up has been taking place since the 1970’s, with extensive work done by BLM since 1989. 

In 2009, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began an environmental investigation of the Red Devil Mine (RDM) site under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).  The Remedial Investigation (RI) also includes a Feasibility Study (FS) of possible site wide remediation methods.  Studies and sampling throughout the RI have shown that 1. mine tailings on site are the main source of mercury, arsenic, and antimony and 2. they are eroding into Red Devil Creek and migrating into the Kuskokwim River.

Because of this, the BLM is planning on action for 2014 (this summer!)  The early action will prevent tailings from continuing to erode into Red Devil Creek.  A site wide remedial action will still take place following the RI/FS (in 2016/2017), but this early action is intended to stop the spread of tailings in the time period between now and then.

On February 19th, 2014, a Draft Environmental Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) was published for a 30 day public review period.  In the EE/CA, three different options for early action are explored in order to prevent tailings from migrating into Red Devil Creek.  The objective was to analyze options in terms of effectiveness, implementability and cost – and to find a preferred method.

Those options, or alternatives, as they are called in the EE/CA are as follows:
  1. Do nothing;
  2. Channelize and install a concrete cloth liner for a length of 250 feet along Red Devil Creek;
  3. Line creek with a 6 ft diameter culvert for a length of 250 feet; or
  4. Excavate tailings and part of Red Devil Creek for a length of 200 feet, and transport to a temporary storage area on site.
The first option to do nothing was analyzed to provide for comparison purposes against all other options.  Following the individual and comparable analysis provided in the EE/CA, it was determined that Alternative 4 would be the most effective and implementable approach.  Why?  It will be the most effective in preventing tailings from migrating into Red Devil Creek, it will be relatively easy to construct, and the cost is similar to the other alternatives.  It will also be most consistent with the site wide remedial action alternatives being considered. 

For more details on the four options that could take place this summer, you can review the EE/CA documents at www.blm.gov/ak/red_devil_mine.  They are available for public review and comments can be made through March 21, 2014.  In addition, several community meetings are being held throughout the Kuskokwim Region. 

 

Again, early action will take place THIS SUMMER.  That means construction will be happening in Red Devil SOON.  Take this opportunity to find out what BLM plans to do, and share your thoughts, questions and concerns!


 
How can you provide feedback?
  • Share your comments at one of the community meetings listed above
  • Provide e-mail comments at blm_ak_reddevil@blm.gov
  • Send written comments to: BLM Anchorage Field Office, 4700 BLM Road, Anchorage AK 99507
  • Fax Comments to: 907-267-1268
-  OR  -
  • Talk with your tribal council about your concerns and we will help get your comments heard!
Questions/Concerns?
Points of Contact:
  • Project e-mail address for BLM: blm_ak_reddevil@blm.gov
  • Alan Bittner, BLM Anchorage Field Manager 907-267-1264 or 800-478-1263
  • Mike McCrum, BLM RDM Project Manager 907-271-4426
And as always, you can send your questions or comments my way:

Friday, February 21, 2014

SNAP Offers Excellent Resources for Climate Change Planning - Take a Look!

February 21, 2014

 
Nancy Fresco spoke at the 16th Annual AFE conference in Anchorage on February 5th, and she had some interesting information to share related to climate change that I’d like to share with you.  Nancy works as the Network Coordinator for SNAP (Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning). To find out more about the specifics of SNAP, please visit their website at http://www.snap.uaf.edu/about.php.  Scenario planning basically takes “what we know”, combines it with the uncertainties we face, and plans for multiple futures.  Part of Nancy’s talk at AFE focused on how Alaska is changing, and the differences in the change among the various regions of the state.  So how IS Alaska Changing?  How will climate change impact our daily lives and environments?

Shifting vegetation – there is a northward and upward moving trend in the treeline, and habitat loss is occurring from the encroachment of invasive plant species.  What exists today as climate linked biomes (or large areas of habitat types/plant species) may undergo severe changes during the next century. 

 Oceans – arctic sea ice and shore fast ice are shrinking, while summer is lengthening.  This is heavily publicized topic – what isn’t as frequently talked about? – ocean acidification.  The absorption of CO2 into the ocean is causing ocean acidification; species like the pteropod are very sensitive to this change.  This can be problematic, for example: the pteropod makes up 50% of juvenile pink salmon diet.  Imagine what will happen to them if half of their food supply is endangered.

Wildlife – as habitats change, this will benefit some species and hurt others.  Some species will need to move to new territories, thus threatening resident species.  Imagine if your neighbor just decided to move into your living room! How would you react?

Thawing Ice and Soils – as we have all read about and seen pictures of, glaciers are receding.  The loss of sea ice will remove habitat for wildlife like polar bears and seals.  Also having a great impact on the state is the thawing of permafrost.  Loss of permafrost could contribute to the drying of wetlands, stream and lakes, not to mention the damage that could occur to infrastructure.

Human livelihood – traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering patterns may change or disappear all together.  Not all change is bad – farmers and gardeners could see an expansion with new crops made possible by a lengthening growing season.

As you can see, the future is a great unknown.  This has really always been the case, but it’s made that much more concerning with the introduction of the topic of climate change.  SNAP has a great number of tools available for communities to use when discussing planning for climate change.  One such tool is the community chart feature available at http://www.snap.uaf.edu/charts.php.  Just by typing the name of your community into the search box, you can view past, current and projected temperature and precipitation data for your community.

An example of Georgetown and Aniak data follows, here’s how to read the charts:  All of the months of the year are across the bottom, and in each month there are bars for different time periods, ranging from past years (1961-1990) to current (2010-2019) to future ( 2090-2099).  The bars represent the amount of precipitation or temperature to expect during that month. This allows you to see what you can expect in each month of the year in your community, as related to previous years.   Take a look at Georgetown’s average monthly temperature chart. 
You can see that in the past and even now – April tends to be below freezing in temperatures.  Take a look at the future bars though- they indicate that April will no longer have below freezing temperatures.  How would that affect your family? Your community?  The precipitation chart for Aniak is shown here as well.  When you are discussing climate change and how to plan to future, or if you aren’t sure if you will be affected – just take a look at the website and look up your community – it’s a really fast way to get some really telling information.

For more information, contact Nancy by e-mail at nlfresco@alaska.edu or by phone at (907) 474-2405. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Kuskokwim Region Represented Well at the 16th Annual Alaska Forum on the Environment

 
 
With over fifty exhibitors and booth locations, five days of presentations, and a three day film festival, the 16th Annual Alaska Forum on the Environment did not disappoint.  I wouldn’t even touch the surface if I tried to share the entire wealth of knowledge that I gained from this year’s event.  Instead, I’ll just touch briefly on some of the presentations about our region that made the cut! 
 
AFE was held from February 3-February 7, 2014.   On Monday, Mike McCrum from BLM gave a presentation on the proposed 2014 action at the abandoned Red Devil Mine site to prevent tailings with high concentrations of mercury, arsenic and antimony from migrating into the Kuskokwim.  The BLM is currently planning community meetings on the Kuskokwim to further discuss this action.  More information on that can be found at http://www.blm.gov/ak/st/en/fo/ado/hazardous_materials/red_devil_mine/rdm_cercla_remedial/rdm_cip___tribal_consultation.html. 
 
Invasive species in rural Alaska and their impacts on subsistence and agricultural resources were discussed in a session on Tuesday.  Interested in learning more?  Try here: http://www.uaf.edu/ces/cnipm/.  There was a presentation later that day focusing on how people in the Kuskokwim River watershed are adapting to climate change.  From what I read, climate models indicate that changes will continue to accelerate into the future.  Presenters were from the Geos Institute and KRWC – contact them for more information! 
 
I wasn’t able to attend that session since I was in another room, giving a presentation during the Tribal water quality projects session, on the middle Kuskokwim River water quality database, which is housed at the GTC office in Anchorage.  Currently, water quality data from Sleetmute, Georgetown, Napaimute, and Kalskag are included – and following the presentation I was encouraged by the fact that there are several other villages on the Kuskokwim who will be including their data into the project as well.  Visit our website for more information! 
 
During a session on Thursday, Ben Balivet and Sophie Chaliak from AVCP discussed educational outreach to their communities on climate change in order to begin planning their responses. Contact AVCP at 1-800-478-3521. Also later that day, folks from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services discussed the high levels of methyl mercury in pike and burbot in the middle Kuskokwim River, and how these levels are enough to be a public health concern. Check out this poster for some more information: http://www.epi.alaska.gov/eh/fish/MercuryPikePoster_NorthwestAK.pdf. 
 
The Telida Village Council was sharing information from their booth about a very well developed curriculum focused on topics of importance to the Upper Kuskokwim River.  To view the curriculum, check out their website: http://ukpreservation.com/environmental-curriculum/

All and all, I’d say the Kuskokwim region made a great showing at this year’s Alaska Forum on the Environment. Hopefully you’ll find these resources helpful, as I did at this year’s conference.  See you next year!