(Photo credit: Hal)
In June 2019, the Tubulik near Elim and Koyuk had record temperatures at the Vulcan Creek gage site 30 miles from the mouth and there were hundreds of otherwise healthy (not spawned out) dead fish including pink and chum salmon and white fish in the river. At the same time, during 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was proposing to open almost 20 million acres of land, much of it within critical fish habitat, including the Tubutulik River, to mining activity under the Kobuk-Seward and Bering Sea Western Interior Resource Management Plan (RMP). Currently, these proposals, however, do not address how mining may exacerbate the impacts of increasing water temperatures in watersheds affected by lifting of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) and other lands that have been withdrawn from mining for decades subsistence resources that are critical to Village communities located on the Seward Peninsula.
The Norton Bay Watershed Council will work with it’s partners to develop a climate change risk assessment for the Watershed that will include a process for applying the modeling and data collected to assist policy makers and land managers to mitigate land uses that potentially exacerbate climate related impacts in the Watershed including apply for instream flow water rights on stream reaches in sensitive watersheds.
Specifically, the Assessments will include:
Application of drought and temperature forecasting for the Penninsula that will be applied to models for predicting instream flows and temperature.
Protocols for collection of instream flow, temperature and DO data during the summer season.
Identify lands within the Watershed that include critical fish habitat and potentially locatable minerals that have been opened for mining under the RMP.
Identify a process for applying the modeling and data collected to assist policy makers and land managers and apply for instream flow water rights under Alaska state law to mitigate land uses that potentially exacerbate climate related impacts in critical salmon habitat.
Once the Assessment is completed, it will serve as an ecosystem wide vulnerability assessment for natural resource(s) that can be used by multiple tribes as a template for conducting their own modeling, data collection and outreach to federal and state agency land managers. There are multiple sensitive salmon rivers, for example, within the RMP planning area that other tribes rely on for subsistence practices that will be impacted by the opening of lands to mining under the RMP. The Assessment will, therefore, specifically benefit the other Village communities located on the Seward Peninsula (Peninsula), by assisting it in predicting instream flows and temperature impacts to salmon and other fisheries and take other actions that will result in quantifiable, locally based watershed protection from the potential impacts of climate change and land development.
P.O. Box 15332, Fritz Creek, AK 99603