As plans move forward with adding safety zones to the ends of the runways at Kodiak’s main airport, the Sun’aq Tribe has announced a study it will be leading on the effects of the extensions to the Buskin River. Federal money in the amount of $450,000 will fund the Buskin River Marine Zone Study.
Work will begin this summer on extending two runways at Benny Benson State Airport 600 feet, including Runway 25, which ends at the mouth of the Buskin River. The Sun’aq study will seek to mitigate any lost fish habitat predicted by the project’s Environmental Impact Statement.
Sun’aq biologist Tom Lance said the expansion project’s plan includes $2-million for purchase of high value land elsewhere in the archipelago for conservation, and a $200,000 grant to Fish and Game for its Buskin subsistence management plan.
“That was the original mitigation they proposed. And then the Sun’aq Tribe said, wait, wait a minute. We think that’s fine to provide that kind of mitigation, but it doesn’t do us any good for us here at the Buskin River for subsistence users and Kodiak citizens who are members of the tribe. So that’s when the tribe went into government-to-government consultation with FAA.”
As a result of that consultation, the FAA is providing the extra $450,000, channeled through the Alaska Department of Transportation, for Sun’aq’s mitigation study.
“It’s the most important subsistence fishing area for tribal members. Granted, a lot of people fish around the island, but these resources – they’re not making any more of them, so we’ve got to protect the ones that we have.”
Lance says the five-year plan will look at changes to the seafloor, currents and the fresh water mixing zone where the Buskin River dumps into the harbor, as well as any changes subsistence fishermen might have to make in order to stay on the fish.
“Then somebody could take our study and say, ‘Well, based on the evidence now we need to either fixing what was lost, through some sort of habitat enhancement perhaps. Or, we may look at the information that was collected and say, ‘Gee, there’s no discernable impact.’”
Lance said he hopes to have the grant money in hand by the end of the month, and then issue a request for proposals for contractors to assist in the five-year study. He said the Sun’aq Tribe will make the data from the Buskin River Marine Zone Study publicly available online.
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