Kwethluk Asking For Volunteers To Mark Open Holes

Jan 2, 2018

Ninety willows with blue reflectors stretch across the lower end of Kuskokuak Slough, making a thin line between travelers and three open holes. Bethel Search and Rescue staked the willows on December 22, 2017.
Credit Mark Leary / Bethel Search and Rescue

Update 5:30 p.m.: Kwethluk Search and Rescue is working to mark open holes before Slaviq travel.

On Tuesday, about seven volunteers used markers to blocked off the river above the Kuskokwak Slough Y in front of Roy Alexie’s fish camp.

Volunteers are going out again Wednesday to mark a hole about two and a half miles below Kwethluk. Women and young people are encouraged to join. The group is meeting at the Kwethluk Public Safety Office building at 1 p.m. and Search and Rescue will provide gas.

The need to mark holes was underscored on Sunday by Mark Kasayulie’s death when he and his family of five drove into an open hole on New Years Eve.

The hole marking is the beginning of what Kwethluk Search and Rescue President Charlie Nicolai hopes is a revival of its Search and Rescue volunteers. He says the group will work to mark as many open holes around Kwethluk as possible before Slaviq.

Village Public Safety Officer Max Olick Senior warns travelers to stay off Kuskokuak Slough. 

“We wouldn’t want anybody to travel there because of too many open holes. Very dangerous.”  

Olick says there are more open holes than he ever remembers seeing, and in one area, the ice is only three inches thick.

Original story: Kwethluk is working to rebuild its Search and Rescue program and is beginning by marking open holes on the river before Slaviq travel.

The need was underscored by Mark Kasayulie’s death on Sunday when he and his family of five drove into an open hole on New Year's Eve.

Kwethluk Search and Rescue President Charlie Nicolai is asking volunteers to meet at the Village Public Safety Building at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Village Public Safety Officer Max Olick Sr. promises that “coffee will be ready.”

Nicolai encourages young people and women to attend. The group will gather willows and blue reflective tape before heading out to mark open holes on Kuskokuak Slough.

“Our Search and Rescue has been pretty much inactive from lack of volunteers,” Nicolai said, “and we’re trying to get reorganized.”

In that reorganization, he envisions a volunteer recording interviews with elder Search and Rescue members to share with the younger generation.

“Hopefully,” said Nicolai, “we can gather enough information so our young people can know what to do when it is time for them to take over.”

Nicolai wants Kwethluk volunteers to mark as many open holes as possible around Kwethluk before Slaviq travel begins.

Bethel Search and Rescue and Akiak Search and Rescue marked open holes on Kuskokuak Slough in December. Kwethluk plans to mark any overlooked holes and add more willows to marked holes where needed.