Past Projects

North Bering Sea Tribal Climate Self Determination Project

The Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (NBIWTC) has kicked off its 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 and; 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 Tribes and that analysis consider Traditional Ecological Knowledge and;

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; 5) Work with government agencies and other stakeholders 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)

Tubutulik River Stream Flow and Temperature Monitoring Project

The Tubutulik River produces a variety of Pacific salmon and other fish species vital to the Norton Sound area. In addition, the River is located within the Migratory range of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd which rely on the associated watersheds for habitat and forage needs. Current threats to fish and wildlife habitat within the River’s watershed, however, include temperature increases from climate change and the potential for gold and uranium exploration and other mining related activity. With funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, the Native Village of Elim (NVE) and the Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (NBITWC) have been protecting fish and wildlife habitat, migration, and propagation in the Tubutulik River within the Norton Bay Alaska Watershed. 

Under the Alaska State Water Code, the Tubutulik River Stream Flow and Temperature Monitoring Project will result in a certified water right to instream flows on the river just above in the vicinity of Vulcan and Clear Creeks that will provide protections of stream flows for subsistence purposes. A reservation of water for instream uses protects specific instream water uses, such as fish spawning or recreation, sets aside the water necessary for these activities and keeps later water users from appropriating water that may affect the instream activity.  Water can be reserved for one or more permissible uses on a particular part of a stream or lake during a certain period of time. Like an out-of-stream water right, an instream reservation of water is similar to a property right. It cannot be abandoned, transferred, assigned, or converted to another use without approval of DNR.

As part of the Project, during the Spring-Summer of 2011, using BIA funding, NVE installed staff gages on Elim Creek and in the Tubutulik River just above Vulcan Creek and monitored these gages throughout the monitoring season. In addition, NVE collected instream flow data on the Tubutulik River for the 2011 – 2015 monitoring season. DNR normally, requires two years of data prior before the water right application is filed and after, the application is filed, the agency typically requires the collection of an addition 3 years of flow data prior to issuing the water right certification. With funding just received from the USFWS Elim will continue to collect stream flow data in the Watershed both to obtain an instream flow reservation certification and to establish additional gages to collect additional flow data from other sites.

The NBITWC and NVE will apply the conventional water flow, temperature and other data, TEK, the LCCAPs risk assessments to: a) participation in EPA environmental justice policy development and implementation to encourage increased federal oversight and enforcement of government actions and policies that mitigate and assist communities in adapting to climate change impacts; b) work with federal and state agencies to develop regulations and guidelines to address the effects on water and subsistence resources of climate change; c) increase public outreach and involvement to improve understanding of the effects of climate change to water and subsistence resources; and d) Work with the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative (WALCC) to implement the recommendations in the Alaska Stream and Lake Temperature Monitoring Workshop Report.

Finally,  the NBITWC and NVE will also, coordinate the LCCAPs along with the existing and additional water flow, quality, temperature data and TEK, with the risk assessment contained in the Norton Bay Watershed Climate Change Adaption Plan, (NBCCAP), Assessment of Mining Impacts on Subsistence, Ecosystems of the Tubutulik River Watershed; the Quality Assurance Project Plan for the Native Village of Elim, Tubutulik River Subsistence Protection Project; the Native Village of Elim Instream Flow Water Reservation Application and other planning documents and to address risk factors and mitigate climate change impacts. These documents were developed using both Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) and contemporary science from community leaders, scientists and policy experts throughout Alaska and apply innovative strategies to analyze climate change, food security, sustainable economies, holistic wellness and energy issues related to water quality and quantity in the Norton Bay Watershed including the restoration of traditional knowledge as a primary strategy for creation of these documents.

Native Village of Golovin Hazard Mitigation & Climate Adaption Plan Integration

The changing weather patterns in Alaska have already brought substantial impacts on Native village and other communities in Alaska.  
Coastal erosion, flooding and related impacts to infrastructure, drinking water and human health represent a substantial water resources risk, from climate change, to many Alaskan communities. At the same time, federal agencies require the development of Hazardous Mitigation Plans (HMPs) as a pre-requisite before communities can receive funding for emergency mitigation relief or planning projects related to the impacts of climate change.

Development of HMPs will provide the Villages with the means for taking on the ground action re: Alaska Native climate adaption and mitigation planning including: development of localized hazardous mitigation plans, use of traditional knowledge and implementation of tribal sovereignty to address climate adaption and mitigation.

With funding from the Kresge Foundations, a high priority goal for the native villages of Norton Bay is to create hazard mitigation plans to address the immediate impacts of climate change for village infrastructure and safety, such as flooding and coastal erosion that are already occurring.  When approved HMPs are in place, the villages will then qualify for FEMA funding that can allow adaptive management practices for the village health and safety. The project goal of integrating an HMP with a climate assessment for one of the villages of Norton Bay is a good fit for the (Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed
Council’s) NBITWC’s climate program and can serve as a model of action for other villages in the region.  The revised project concept will include two primary objectives: 1) develop a climate assessment update for the Native Villages of Golovin’s HMP and 2) integrate a training webinar on how conduct such updates into the BIA supported webinar series, using this project as an example and model for other villages.

After completing the HMP update, Golovin is be able to:
•       Conduct Climate Change Risk Analysis;
•       Develop Emergency Mitigation Plans that fit the specific climate  
change related impacts to their community;
•       Secure funding for developing Climate Adaption and Emergency  
Mitigation plans and for implementation of these plans;
•       List stakeholders who should be involved in a community planning efforts;
•       List methods and tools for community involvement, and determine  
which are appropriate  in various situations;
•       Develop a community involvement plan for a tribal environmental outreach process.

The Native Village of Golovin will benefit from on the HMP + CAP integration through trainings on and development of localized adaption and hazardous mitigation planning; implementation and development of federal and state policies to address Alaska Native and rural community climate change adaption and mitigation including implementation of federal trust responsibility; and use of traditional knowledge and implementation of tribal sovereignty to address climate adaption and mitigation.
In addition as result of the CAP + HMP on-line integration NVG will be able to Conduct Climate Change Risk Analysis.

Climate Adaptation and Implementation Plan For The Norton Bay Watershed

Summary of Climate Stressor

The Native Villages in Alaska are facing challenges due to climate change. The food source’s they depend on and the jobs they also depend on for a source of income are being affected by climate change and other industrial jobs. Coastal erosion, raising temperatures, altered ice flow, changes in the water and rivers combined with mining and related industrial development, are affecting the subsistence lifestyle many villages depend on.

Summary of Asset Impacted

One key asset that is being affected are the surrounding wildlife both land or sea mammals and the fish here in Alaska.  With this affecting the food source it is also affecting a source of income.

Summary of Action and Outcome

The Village of Elim teamed up with Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council and participated in the CSU program in 2013, to develop an adaptation plan for the Norton Bay watershed. The finding and recommendations of that plan will be drawn upon and expanded for this adaptation training and be applied to adaptation for the larger Norton Sound region and throughout Alaska. The training curriculum will include monthly educational webinars, face to face meeting in Nome Alaska and interactive conference calls along with the availability of a series of tools and resources that include planning worksheets, checklists, analytical matrices and a adaptation plan template that can be filled with step by step directions as the curriculum continues. At the end of the 12 month training the villages will be able to develop plans and outline adaptation strategies for future action locally and regionally.

Federal Tool and Services Used

BIA Tribal Climate Resilience Funding was obtained to develop a training program and plan implementation through an adaptive management process.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007. Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups 1, 2, and 3 to the fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing team, Pachauri, R.K., and Reisinger, A. (eds)] Geneva, Switzerland.104 pp

National Resource Council. 2013. Climate and Social Stress: Implications for security Analysis. Washington, DC: The National Academics Press

US Army Corp of Engineers.2013. Alaska Deep-Draft Arctic Port System Study. Http://

United States Environmental Protection Agency.2012 An assessment of Potential Mining Impacts of Salmon Ecosystem of Bristol Bay, Alaska Vol. 1, EPA 910-R-004a


Norton Sound Communities Climate Adaptation Training (NSCCAT)


As a result of climate change, Alaska Native communities are confronted by coastal erosion, flooding and related impacts to infrastructure, drinking water and human health. Observable rise in sea levels is leading to increased storm intensity, while winter ice cover is reduced as global temperatures rise, resulting in further sea level rise. In addition, increased stream temperatures, altered ice conditions, and increased stream bank erosion threaten to directly impact fishery and wildlife habitat and make traditional travel routes hazardous. Finally, reduced water quality with more sedimentation, toxic effluents and other impacts from industrial and other development can exacerbate the effects of climate change on subsistence resources and human health. It is imperative that Alaska Native communities prepare to address these risks for each individual village.

The Adaptation Planning Process 
In order to assist communities in the Norton Sound region to address the impacts from climate change, the Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (NBITWC) and the Native Village of Elim (NVE), with grant funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, presented a one-year climate adaptation planning curriculum from July 2016 through May 2017. The curriculum informed and guided Alaskan Native tribal and community leaders and staff to develop Localized Climate Change Adaptation Plans (LCCAPs) through the process of assessing local climate risks; developing strategies to address those risks; and beginning to build the information, funding and resource capacity to take action for climate adaptation and community resilience.

Participants in the curriculum gained a better understanding of the impacts from climate change in Alaska, how that translates to locally specific climate risks, the range of adaptation options to address risks, and actions communities can take. Using a step by step process, participants now have the information and tools needed to write a local adaptation plan and be ready to move into taking action in a variety of ways that make sense for their community.

Although the focus of the curriculum in 2016-2017 was on the tribal villages in the Norton Sound region, the curriculum was open to and applicable to a wide variety of tribes and villages across Alaska. The following is an overview of the curriculum learning modules, schedule and description of the content, methods of delivery, and potential costs for participants not covered by available funding:

The Training Team 
Unless otherwise indicated, Hal Shepherd, the Principal for Water Policy Consulting, LLC, and various representatives from the Model Forest Policy Program’s Climate Solutions University Team (MFPP) were the lead presenters for the trainings. Guest experts also participated in selected modules throughout the year.

Water Policy Consulting, LLC assists Alaska Native Communities in the areas of water resources research, data collection and monitoring; conducting watershed assessments and management plans; securing funding for water resource management and protection; climate adaptation and resiliency planning; and consultation on tribal sovereignty, arctic policy, human rights and water resource management.

The representatives from the Model Forest Policy Program are team members who have been involved in the delivery of the Climate Solutions University program (CSU) for a number of years. The CSU program has provided training and facilitated climate adaptation planning for a total of 33 communities across the U.S.  The Native Village of Elim and the Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council participated in the CSU program in 2013 and developed an adaptation plan for the Norton Bay area. The findings and recommendations of that plan will be drawn upon and expanded for this adaptation training and be applied to adaptation plans for the larger Norton Sound region and beyond.  

Course Delivery Method
The curriculum was delivered through a combination of monthly educational webinars, face-to-face meetings in Nome, AK, and interactive conference calls. Each learning module included a variety of instructional methods, including presentations, case studies, discussions and interactive planning activities. For those communities fully engaged who intended to complete an adaptation plan by Spring 2017, a series of tools and resources was provided including planning worksheets, checklists, analytical matrices, and an adaptation plan template that could be filled in step-by-step as we progressed through the curriculum. 

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