Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Georgetown Tribal Council 2014 Annual Meeting

Environmental Report

July 30, 2014

In case you missed it, the GTC held its annual meeting this year at Tribal Council president, David “Buddy” Kutch’s residence in Chugiak, AK on July 19th.  Seats B and C on the tribal council were up for election, and 33 votes representing 39.29% of the eligible voters were counted.  The counts were:

Seat B Vanessa Evans 18 votes, Kim Notti 14 Votes

Seat C Traci Fredericks 27 votes

Congratulations to Vanessa and Traci!

The Army Corps of Engineers was also present to give a project update on the potential Donlin Gold mine and their involvement in the Environmental Impact Statement.  Tribal administrator, Will Hartman, gave an update on financials and Buddy Kutch gave an update on the land committee and their work.

Environmental coordinator, Kate Schaberg, gave the environmental report.  This will just document some of the highlights from the year:

Kuskokwim Fisheries Report

In 2014, the Chinook salmon fishery on the Kuskokwim River in refuge waters (below Aniak) was managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  Waters above Aniak were managed by the ADF&G.  Many found regulations from duel management difficult to keep straight. Unprecedented restrictions were in place this year – prior to start of the run, the entire river was closed to all Chinook fishing.  The first subsistence opportunity was allowed in the lower river on  June 20th. Overall, escapement numbers appear better this year, but taking into account heavy restrictions – it doesn’t appear that the total run was much bigger than last year – just more restrictions allowed the fish to make it to spawning grounds

Red Devil Mine Cleanup

The BLM considered 3 different alternatives for “Early Action” cleanup, which would prevent tailings migration into Red Devil Creek and the Kuskokwim River (Early action is a short term clean up to address urgent concerns).  BLM Selected Alternative #4, which was to:  “Realign the creek adjacent to the tailings piles, line the sides with gabion (a retaining wall of stones inside heavy wire mesh) to prevent erosion, and construct a sediment trap downstream as an additional safeguard against tailings migration in the creek”.  Construction began in mid July and is scheduled to take place now through early August.

Kuskokwim River Watershed Council

New Staff were recently announced at KRWC!  Adrian Boelens took over as Executive Director for the watershed council. Nominations are needed for a  member and alternate to represent GTC on KRWC full board – August 20, 2014. 
The KRWC summit is tentatively scheduled for September 25-26, 2014 in Aniak. Elections to the KRWC executive board will be done at this time.

 Water Quality Report

The GTC currently has data from 2007-2014 for multiple parameters with a database/map that houses data from several tribes, including Kalskag, Napaimute, Georgetown & Sleetmute.  KRWC and Telida data will be included soon.  In 2013/2014, presentations were given at the Alaska Forum on the Environment, the NW Tribal Water Rights Conference.  Results and more information are available on our website.

Environmental Committee

The GTC Environmental committee currently consists of three members: Buddy Kutch, Renee Fredericks & Debby Hartman.  We held our first quarterly meeting on May 17th.  We put together an environmental assessment which will help get feedback from YOU on what your environmental concerns are for Georgetown. Our next meeting is tentatively scheduled for September 27th, at which time we will continue work on the Tribal Environmental Plan, including compilation of all survey results. 

Georgetown members fill out environmental assessment at the GTC 2014 Annual Meeting
For those of you who were unable to attend the annual meeting, surveys were sent in the mail with a return postage paid envelope and can also be found online at
Please complete the survey and submit or mail back by August 31st for entry into a drawing for a special prize!
We need your help to ensure our environmental vision is met:

To have a community and environment where land, water, and subsistence resources are preserved and respected.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or have any interest in participating in any of our environmental projects.

Kate Schaberg
GTC Environmental Coordinator

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Project Update on the Donlin Gold Proposed Mine- Environmental Impact Statement

July 19, 2014

Don Kuhle and Taylor Brelsford present information  to about twenty Georgetown members on the Donlin Gold EIS at the Georgetown Annual meeting on July 19th, 2014

Don Kuhle, US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) representative, and Taylor Brelsford, URS representative, gave a project update on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Donlin Gold project at the 2014 Georgetown Annual Meeting.  Donlin Gold representative, Mary Sattler, was also present to answer any questions.

They confirmed that they, along with the group of cooperating agencies on the project, are currently writing the Draft EIS.  The Draft EIS is the document that will address all comments made during the scoping period, and propose alternatives for the project.  Don started the presentation by giving a brief overview of the project area, proposed pipeline route, the mine site layout and transportation infrastructure. 

The scoping period was the time when URS and the Corps collected public comments of concern or suggestions.  Some of the more frequently included comments were centered around topics such as barge traffic, subsistence traditions, water quality quantity and flow, mercury, fish & wildlife, people and their communities and health impacts. 

Following scoping, the team began work on developing alternatives in the Donlin EIS, and continues that work currently.  The law that requires the development of the EIS is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  It requires that a review is done of a reasonable range of alternatives.  Using the environmental issues identified during scoping, alternatives are developed based on their potential to reduce impacts.  The EIS compares the relative impacts of those alternatives. 

Currently, the alternatives under development include:
  • No Action: the project would not be built, and this alternative would show what would happen should the project not go forward
  • Donlin's Proposed Project - this alternative is the proposed project as originally intended by Donlin Gold
  • Reduced Barging Alternatives - alternatives to consider include reducing the number of barges and/or shortening the distance needed for barging
  • Mine Site Alternatives - these alternatives look at different methods to use on site
  • Pipeline Route Alternatives - Considering different routes for the pipeline
While the group is considering alternatives, they are also conducting additional studies and meetings that will help fill some gaps in knowledge about the area.  Studies include a rainbow smelt spawning study that was done near Kalskag (More information here), a Kuskokwim Juvenile Salmon Investigation, and multiple Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) meetings held both in Aniak and in Anchorage. 

The Corps continues to give updates throughout the region, and will be looking into a possible tribal teleconference in the near future to give an update on the project to those who are interested.  The Draft EIS is expected out in the summer of 2015, at which time public comments will be encouraged.  Public meetings will also be held at this time throughout the project area to hear comments on the Draft EIS.

For more information, visit their website at or you can contact Don directly at or 907-753-2780.