The Pebble Project Newsletter july/august 2013
Rural Schools, Outmigration and Perceptions by Pebble Intern Gabriella Brune
Although outmigration is a statewide issue, Southwest Alaska continues to experience some of the highest population declines. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, throughout a 10-year period, the Lake and Peninsula Borough experienced a 17 percent drop in Alaska Native population. Similarly, the Bristol Bay Borough experienced a 23 percent drop in Alaska Native population. Research shows issues such as high living costs, lack of economic opportunities, limited infrastructure and school closures all contribute to outmigration. Let’s take a closer look at school closures. In 1999, the Alaska State Legislature revised a state law, reducing operational funds for schools with fewer than 10 students. The reductions occur throughout a four-year period, with schools risking closure if they are not able to meet enrollment requirements. Today, years after the enacted law, more than 32 schools have closed throughout Alaska, including six schools throughout the Southwest region: Clarks Point, Portage Creek, South Naknek, Pedro Bay, Ivanoff Bay and Nelson Lagoon. In most cases, schools serve as a place of learning. However, in rural Alaska a school serves in many different capacities. Patty Alsworth, a founding member of the village of Port Alsworth, was upfront about the harsh realities of school closures. “Often a community, if it doesn’t die, becomes crippled,” Alsworth said. “It’s hard for a family to continue living there without education for their children.”
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A lack of infrastructure is a common challenge in rural Alaska, especially during long winter months.
In 2010, after Pedro Bay’s school closed due to a fall in attendance, Karla Jensen and other families in that community had few choices. According to Jensen, the school closure has made their lives more challenging, having to either homeschool their children or send them away in order to receive an education. With limited educational opportunities throughout rural Alaska, many families have resorted to migrating into more urban areas. However, research shows this transition can be very disorienting and even painful for residents. Dewey Hoffman, a Koyukon Athabascan from Ruby, Alaska, a small village along the Yukon,
shared his experience moving from rural Alaska into a more urban area. “Living in Barrow and then suddenly moving to the land of drive-throughs and long-distance commutes was at first unbearable,” Hoffman said. “I later became adapted to city living, but I am still most comfortable in a village setting.” A more severe case of the impacts of school closures is Ivanof Bay, Alaska. In 2003, when the community saw a fall in student enrollment, Ivanof Bay School closed its doors to residents. Today, less than 10 years after the school closure, the total year-round population ranges from two to six people. n july/august 2013 | PAGE 1
Message from the President A Slice of Rural Alaska Life By AlexAnna Salmon I chose to live without routine, and spontaneously by the seasons. This is why I live in the isolated village of Igiugig, population 70, which sits on the banks of the Kvichak River and Iliamna Lake. On a daily basis, I am able to work one full, and several parttime jobs, while raising three beautiful daughters. I work several jobs to afford a comfortable living. Paying $7.79 a gallon for oil, I set the thermostat to 72 degrees and decide whether or not to burn wood. At .80 cents per kilowatt hour, we wash 50 loads of laundry a month and use an electric dryer. We do not drink our treated well water, but pack drinking water from the pristine and crystal-clear river in gallon containers -- its taste is unrivaled in this world. I open the freezer and decide whether or not to grill the New York steaks or make caribou shish-kabobs.
Like many people throughout Alaska, AlexAnna Salmon is passionate about sustaining her community – Igiugig, Alaska. I’ve asked AlexAnna to share what life looks like for her in rural Alaska, a perspective worth knowing.
– John Shively, Pebble CEO
My companion is an avid hunter, trapper and operator so we have a fleet of vehicles: fourwheelers, snow-machines, boats and trucks in which to embrace the landscape. We bring home berries, furs, beluga and birds. Our goal is to make available all the opportunities we had as children to our children—to teach self-sustainability, selfentertainment, community service, and tradition to the girls so that wherever they live, they will be happy with a solid sense of self and belonging. Today, my family and I live a modernized preferred subsistence lifestyle that is leaps and bounds easier and more luxurious than our ancestors. It is the ultimate life of self-determination; I just wish it weren’t so expensive to fly to Anchorage so that we could travel the world easier. And as always, cheaper fuel would be ideal. Questions? Send to: email@example.com.
To start, stand in one place overlooking the tundra and identify the best place to begin. You will need a backpack, buckets, berry picker, Ziploc bags, snacks, mosquito repellant, water, scarf and boots.
Berry Picking By Anna Paine, Pebble Administrative Assistant Taught by Elders from her region, Anna Paine has picked berries for more than 20 years, a tradition she believes is a great family-bonding activity. PAGE 2 | july/augusy 2013
Typically, blackberries are the first berries to show. They are usually found clustered together in dry and flat portions of the tundra. Blueberries on the other hand are found in higher areas of the tundra with long stems and tiny leaves surrounding the berry patch. Salmonberries are found in the damp part of the tundra, mostly
Environment Q & A
What are wetlands, and why are they important?
Generally, wetlands are lands where the soil is often saturated with water, affecting the types of plant and animal communities living in that area. For example, wetlands include marshes, swamps, fens, bogs, and, in Alaska, permafrost. Wetlands are important because they support a variety of ecological functions and human values. For example, wetlands can provide fish and wildlife habitat, which in turn supports subsistence resources; wetlands can “filter” contaminants to maintain clean water, or in developed areas, improve degraded water; they can store flood water to moderate flood related damage; and wetlands can provide sites for educational and recreational opportunities. Wetlands can vary in their importance, number of functions and services, and significance. Pebble scientists have documented and mapped the location of wetlands across a large geographic area that extends well beyond the project’s footprint. Pebble scientists are also studying wetland functions through a process called a Functional Assessment. Pebble will use this information during the regulatory process to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands to the maximum extent practicable, and then offset any remaining unavoidable impacts through compensatory mitigation.
around swamps. They are easily seen because of their bright colors. Each salmonberry is covered with a stem and leaf attached to the salmon berry. Cranberries are surrounded by bright green leaves at the end of the summer. Cranberries also have a bright fall-colored leaf hanging close to the berry, almost purple color. When berry picking, always remember to be aware of your surroundings, consistently looking out for wildlife and bad weather. Berry picking is fun activity that you can do with both your friends and family.
Mining Fact All Alaska Native corporations benefit from the mining industry. For example, of the $124.7 million in net proceeds from Red Dog Operations to NANA Regional Corporation in 2012, $76.4 million were distributed to other Alaska Native regional and village corporations through 7(i) and 7(j) payments. Source: http://www.alaskaminers.org/ mcd13sum.pdf
Elders Forum The Elder’s Forum began in 2009 with approximately 60 attendees from the Bristol Bay region. The initial purpose of the event: to address questions surrounding the Pebble Project. Today, the Elder’s Forum serves as an opportunity for those who want to learn more about the Pebble Project, while reconnecting with family and friends. This year at the 5th Annual Elder’s Forum, Pebble hosted more than 200 attendees from 26 communities throughout the Bristol Bay region.
Safety Tip Fire safety should always be a main concern in the workplace. Here are some helpful tips promoting fire safety: keep your work area free of waste paper and trash that can easily catch fire; check your electrical cords – if a cord is damaged in any way, replace it; keep heat-producing equipment away from anything that might burn; and always know your fire safety plan.
myth: Pebble will pollute
the waters around it.
FACT: All water from the mine area will be controlled, collected and released back into the environment only when it meets strict water quality standards.
Green Star Tip Did you know one of the most serious threats to our oceans is plastic pollution? Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface. Please consider recycling or reusing your plastics.
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The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has some of the most stringent water quality standards in the nation. This includes an anti-degradation policy, which requires extraordinary protection of waters with high natural quality. The quality of these waters must be maintained and protected and any discharges to the waters must be treated using best available methods and to the highest statutory and regulatory requirements. The standards also protect Alaska’s waters
BUSTER so that they can serve as habitat for fish and other aquatic life, as sources of drinking water, and for recreation and other purposes. Pebble will work closely with the state and federal agencies to ensure that water released from the mine area not only meets water quality standards, but has everything needed to continue to provide vital fish habitat.
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Meet Valerie Engebretsen A life-long Alaskan and a resident of Nondalton, Alaska
What is your position with Pebble? I’m a Community Associate for the Pebble Partnership, serving as a liaison for information between the Partnership and the communities in which I grew up.
When did you start working for Pebble? My career with Pebble began in February 2012.
Tell us about your Pebble work history. Before I applied for a position as a community associate I was pretty uninformed about the project. I thought what better way to get more informed then to work directly for Pebble. I applied for the position and here I’m today as a Community Associate. Learning as I go, I travel PAGE 4 | july/august 2013
and get a chance to hear from people all over my region.
What is your favorite memory from your time with Pebble?
What does the Pebble culture mean to you?
I’ve really enjoyed traveling and engaging with communities. Also, getting together with the entire Pebble team is a wonderful experience. Everyone I meet has a great attitude and work ethic. n
The environmental commitment Pebble puts forth to the project is one of the greatest commitments I have ever seen by a company. I can easily say with full confidence that our area is by far the most studied area in Alaska. Pebble is doing a great job at keeping their promise of using the world’s best science.
What do you like best about working for Pebble? The opportunity to engage with stakeholders in my region and to stay informed on the Pebble Project.
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