Watershed Research and Restoration
Klehini River Baseline Water Quality
a project partnership with the Chilkat Indian Village
The Chilkat and Chilkoot Rivers are two of the most productive salmon systems on the west coast of North America. They host significant wild runs of all five species of Pacific salmon, as well as steelhead, Dolly Varden, cutthoat trout, and eulachon. This abundance has supported the Chilkat and Chilkoot people since time immemorial, and is now the basis of a commercial fishing industry that accounts for 15% of local incomes. Although local freshwater habitats are relatively intact, they are nonetheless facing two significant near-term threats: the unpredictable effects of climate change, and ongoing pressure from human development.
The F/V Crown, a Haines-based commercial gillnetter, at home in the placid and salmon-rich waters of the Upper Lynn Canal
The Takshanuk Watershed Council (TWC) and the Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan (CIV) have been working together to collect baseline water quality data in Glacier Creek and the Klehini River. This project is in response to ongoing mineral exploration in the area, and the need to record baseline conditions in these waters before a large-scale mine is developed. Neither the State of Alaska nor the BLM collect baseline water quality data. The mineral exploration company, Constantine Metal Resources, is collecting data for its own uses, but treats the information as proprietary, and is not required to make the data available to the public.
The CIV/TWC water quality project began in 2016 with the development of a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). Water quality sampling commenced in December of 2017 and has been ongoing. Three sites are being sampled: 1) lower Glacier Creek, 2) the Klehini River upstream of Glacier Creek, and 3) the Klehini River downstream of Glacier Creek at the 26-Mile bridge. Sites will be sampled quarterly, at as wide a variety of weather and flow conditions as possible, for five years. Parameters being recorded include both a dissolved and total metals analysis of 27 elements, including copper, silver, lead, zinc, and mercury; also hydrocarbons (petroleum), sulfate, total organic carbon, total suspended solids, and basic water quality parameters such as salinity, pH, alkalinity, hardness, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. All information will be shared publicly via EPA and DEC online databases.
Results so far indicate that the water at all three sampling sites is of the highest quality. TWC presented an overview of our current and planned water quality monitoring activities at the American Water Resources Alaska Chapter meeting in Juneau on September 17, 2019: Water Quality Monitoring in the Chilkat Watershed.
Upper Glacier Creek, the site of a proposed volcanogenic massive-sulfide (VMS) hard rock mine.
This project will provide valuable information that will be used to make decisions on how to best safeguard the health of our waters and aquatic habitats.
Should industrial development occur, baseline water quality data will be used to set discharge permit limits, provide guidance in monitoring standards and practices, and it will provide a point of reference that can guide clean-up and restoration efforts in the event of a mine tailings spill or other industrial accident.
Funding has been provided by the Chilkat Indian Village and also by generous donations from the public. Both TWC and CIV would like to say
Thank You! and Gunalchéesh!
to everyone who has contributed to this important project. We need to collect four more years of data, and fundraising is ongoing.