Current Projects

The Imuruk Basin Inter-Tribal Watershed Council

In June 2018, the newly established Imuruk Basin Watershed Council (IBITWC), held it’s first meeting in Teller, Alaska. The Board of Directors of the new Watershed Council which is modeled after the Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council consists of representatives from the Teller, Mary’s Igloo and Brevig Mission Traditional Council
(Tribes) and was formed in order to represent the Tribes’ interest in the sustainable management and protection the Imuruk Basin Watershed.

The IBITWC was formed, in part, in response to a Canadian based mining company’s proposal to develop a vertically integrated, mine located 37 miles north of Nome at the base of the Kigluaik Mountains. The mine would tap into what it claims to be, one of the larges graphite ore deposits in the world which. The “Graphite Creek” Project, named after one of the many small salmon bearing creeks that drain the Mountain Range, would involve the processing and manufacture of high grade coated spherical graphite primarily for lithium-ion electric batteries, to Capitalize on a potential supply crunch from China and a growing appetite for electric vehicles.

Since 2012, as part of Graphite Creek mining exploration activities, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources has been allowing the company to divert up to 130,000 gallons per day of water from several creeks and ponds without requiring the Company to obtain a permit.  
Concerned about the impacts of such water withdrawals on fish and wildlife habitat, the Tribes formed the IBITWC to addressing these and other water and subsistence related issues.

Recently, the IBITWC sent a letter to the Nome Office of Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) requesting that they amend the Habitat Permit to ensure adequate flows for salmon in the Creeks affected by the TWUAs pointing out that the ADF&G Permit and the TWUAs Decision require the agency to take action to limit potential impacts to Salmon and other species that may occur under the TWUAs Decision. ADF&G responded, however, that it “believes that if the application conforms to the terms and conditions of the permits, then the withdrawal rates and amounts authorized in the permits will not impact the fish in Hot Springs Creek.” The agency, however, reached this conclusion without collecting any data on the Creek nor even visiting the site.
During a hearing last fall regarding a bond issue for the Graphite One Mine Sen. Don Olson stated that “If the community does not want this mine, it should not go through.” The IBITWC, therefore, has requested that Sen. Olson take whatever measures he can to encourage the DNR, ADF&G and/or the Mining Company to work with the IBITWC and the Tribes to protect salmon habitat in the Creeks in order to preserve subsistence resources that are vital to the Tribes.

North Bering Sea Tribal Climate Self Determination Project

The Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (NBIWTC) has kicked off it’s project to address the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s(BOEM’s) recent 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (Leasing Program) which proposes to revive a long-abandoned government campaign to encourage oil and gas drilling in the  North Bering Sea Region (NBSR). As part of the Project the NBITWC will: 1) Partner with the tribal entities located in the NBSR (Tribes) in submitting comments to BOEM on the Leasing Program; 

2) Continue working with the Alaska Delegation and Governor Walker to request that the NBSR Leases be removed from the Proposal; 3) Work with Senator Murkowski regarding her commitment to the Tribes to use legislation to require that Department of Interior policies be vetted by the such Tribes and that analysis consider Traditional Ecological Knowledge; 4) Hold DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke accountable to his commitment to bring Alaska Tribes to the table before making any decisions to open more areas in the NBSR to oil and gas leasing including engaging in Government-to-Government (G2G) Consultation with tribal entities in order to discuss the potential impacts on subsistence resources and human health and welfare; and 

6) Work with government agencies and other stake holders to establish local oil and gas clean-up emergency response teams in the NBSR. (This Project is funded in part by the Unitarian Universalist Fund for Just Society).

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