Environmental stories in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

Ice on H-Marker Lake, a popular shortcut from Tundra Ridge Subdivision to the Bethel airport, averaged nine inches on Wednesday, November 29.
Google Maps

Ice is forming on the tundra lakes and people are beginning to drive across popular trails, but Bethel resident Fritz Charles warns that H-Marker Lake is not yet thick enough for cars or trucks.

Last week, a group of Bethel college students found hundreds of dead blackfish at the bottom of one of Dull Lake’s tributaries. Both residents and experts suspected they were killed by pollution, but according to the state Fish and Game Department, there might be a different explanation.

Jacques Peter Smart and other KuC students found hundreds of dead blackfish in one of Arthur Dull Lake's many tributaries.
Courtesy of Jacques Peter Smart.

Last Monday, Jacques Peter Smart walked through the snow to a creek in downtown Bethel, a shallow tributary from Arthur Dull Lake that runs aboveground between Sixth and Seventh Avenue. Hundreds of dead fish were curled together at the bottom of the rust-colored creek bed, each small enough to fit in your hand.

The Yukon Delta remains under a blizzard warning through noon on Thursday, November 23. Whiteout conditions with drifting snow up to 12 inches are expected.
National Weather Service

The good news is that the big storm forecasted for the Yukon Delta wasn’t that big after all, but the area isn’t in the clear. A blizzard warning is now in effect until noon on Thursday.

Donlin Gold predicts that it can extract 33 million ounces of gold over the initial 27 years of the proposed mine. The gold is present in microscopic flecks embedded within the extracted sample rock.
Katie Basile / KYUK

Donlin Gold has taken another step toward opening its proposed mine. State regulators have sent Donlin a draft permit for discharging wastewater into Crooked Creek before it flows into the Kuskokwim River. The company has until Wednesday,November 22 to comment before the public weighs in.

Rising water and erosion is predicted for the Yukon Delta area for the night of November 21, 2017.
National Weather Service

The Yukon River Delta could flood Tuesday night, causing major erosion as a storm moves up the Bering Sea coast.

HBO’s VICE News Tonight featured the Y-K Delta's own Village of Newtok in this look at climate change’s impact on rural Alaska villages.
Courtesy of VICE News Tonight / HBO

The village of Newtok has made another media appearance, this time on the HBO program "VICE News Tonight." The episode aired Thursday and examines the impact of climate change on rural Alaskan villages.

The Kuskokwim river by Aniak in late October 2017.
Dave Cannon / KYUK

Though it’s November, temperatures are above freezing, and the Kuskokwim is running ice-free. After a warm front swept through the region last week, rising temperatures and rain melted the little ice that had formed.

Mark Leary has been measuring the Kuskokwim’s ice thickness for the National Weather Service for 20 years. Standing on the bank of the river in front of Bethel on Thursday, he told KYUK that this open water is unusual, but that we have been here before.

Jasmine Gil examines a tussock from a partially drained lake that was removed by a muskox using the area as a sanctuary to cool down from the summer heat.
Courtesy of Heidi Steltzer, Fort Lewis College.

Note: This article was updated on Friday, October 27 at 3:54 p.m. with further reporting.

Yup'ik leaders and Western scientists are both trying to figure out how climate change could impact communities, but the two groups often struggle to work together. Bethel’s Jasmine Gil is doing her part to bridge that cultural divide.

Newtok has already lost several buildings to erosion.
Christine Trudeau/KYUK

Last week’s storms took away another chunk of the eroding village of Newtok.