Lower Kuskokwim Weirs Held Up by Kwethluk and Tuluksak

by Ben Matheson on June 4, 2014

Kwethluk River Weir. Photo from USFWS.

Kwethluk River Weir. Photo from USFWS.

King salmon are swimming in the Kuskokwim River, but we may not know how many are actually escaping to spawning grounds. Two escapement projects on the lower river – the weirs at Kwethluk and Tuluksak are not in yet place. That’s because village members won’t agree to contracts to operate the weirs if they’re not allowed to fish for chinook salmon this month.

Leaders in the villages of Tuluksak, Kwethluk, Akiak, and Akiachak signed a letter earlier this year saying that that if they can’t fish for kings for a certain period in June, they would break contracts for operating the Tuluksak and Kwethluk river weirs.

The weirs funnel the fish to a single opening with a trap door where they can be counted by biologists. Acting Refuge Manager and Federal In-Season Manager Brian McCaffery says he’s had multiple meetings with representatives from all four communities.

“We have not yet got a final decision from the two villages whether they will be cooperating with the weirs or not this year,” said McCaffery.

Normally, the Kwethluk weir is in place by sometime in May to avoid high water conditions. Crews at the weirs typically count fish beginning in late June.

“The folks who have worked with us in the past from the villages have asked us to be hired, they’re waiting to be hired, but we’re still hoping we can do it in cooperation with those two villages as we have in the past. But as of this time we have not gotten a formal thumbs up or thumbs down,” said McCaffery.

McCaffery says people in Tuluksak were doing a house-by-house poll last night.

KYUK reached out to officials in Kwethluk Wednesday, but was unable to reach a tribal leader. Tuluksak’s phone system was down due to a power outage.

The Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group last month passed a resolution in support of having all the weirs in place with agreement between researchers and communities.

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