A helping hand in a cold Alaska winter

While those of us in Western Alaska regularly face unique challenges because of where we live, it was a very trying holiday and winter season for the people of our little, remote village. Quite literally as many of us were prepping our Thanksgiving meals to be enjoyed the next day, the power went out.

At first, it was just a slight annoyance and certainly nothing new. Here in Crooked Creek, on the banks of the Kuskokwim River, like in so much of rural Alaska, flickering lights and brief outages are the norm. However, it soon became apparent this wasn’t a normal power outage. The main generator was down, and the backup had significant problems as well. In a village with just a few dozen homes, one store, and no road out, finding a replacement or even parts to repair one of the generators nearby was not an option.

As Tribal and village leaders, we worked tirelessly over weeks to find a solution, but continually found one dead end after another. Many people and organizations wanted to help but finding a way to deliver a generator during difficult winter weather was a challenge, both in terms of cost and logistics.

In the meantime, our residents continued to deal with the lack of community power during some of the darkest and coldest days of the year. Many of our residents have personal generators to keep their lights and stoves on when the utility power supply is down. But that still leaves one big issue unresolved — water. In Crooked Creek, like many villages in our region, the community’s water is supplied through a central washeteria. No community power means no water, regardless of in-home generators.

We were exhausted and nearly out of ideas when one of our closest neighbors offered a solution. Someone from Donlin Gold heard about our situation and asked if they could help. Donlin Gold partnered with our Alaska Native corporations; Calista Corporation and The Kuskokwim Corporation, as well as the State of Alaska, and within days arranged to have a 95-kilowatt generator flown into our community. The hope is this generator will support the washeteria, so our Elders, babies, school, clinic, and families have water to use to stay safe and healthy.

In all, the people of Crooked Creek spent more than two months without reliable power and water. And as we write this, we still are without a long-term solution in sight.

Many feel very strongly about the Donlin Gold project, which sits about 10 miles from our community, and what it means for the future of our region. We are not writing this to change anyone’s personal feelings about the project. That discussion is for another time. We are writing this simply to acknowledge Donlin Gold and the project partners showed up to be good neighbors. 

For that, thank you, neighbor.

Julia Zaukar, Elena Phillips, Dennis Thomas, Pursilla Sakar, Ronald Underwood

Members of the Crooked Creek Traditional Council

Response to Pebble opposition

Thank you Senator Murkowski for your opposition to the Pebble Mine. It demonstrates your concern for protecting our beautiful, vast land that contains one of the few true wildernesses of its kind in the world. However, just because you voiced opposition to the Pebble Mine, it doesn’t mean you should therefore support the Donlin Gold Mine. BOTH are dangerous and potentially destructive to our land, nature, and way of life. It too should be abolished forever. Let us not forget the Exxon Valdez oil spill (and promises made), nor turn our heads away from multiple small spills and leaks in the Arctic (that one never hears about); one can ask Rep. Mary Peltola about that one. Thanks again Ma’am.

Terryl Miller

Chiang Rai, Thailand

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