By Robin Mayo
WISE and Copper River Watershed Project are moving ahead with plans to remove abandoned vehicles and other debris from the Kotsina River and floodplain, just upriver from the Copper River bridge at Chitina. Dave Cruz of Cruz Construction has volunteered heavy equipment and a crew to do the removal, and a crowdfunding campaign and generous donations are getting close to the required amount for trucking and disposal fees.
Airplane and drone flyovers of the cleanup site have shown that several of the vehicles have disappeared, but we have not yet determined if they are broken up, covered, or already washed into the river. There are also many abandoned fishwheels and other debris to be cleaned up. The project team is hoping for lower water levels in the fall. Heavy equipment will be working in the area the week of September 28-October 2, and a volunteer cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, October 3. If weather or other factors don’t cooperate, we may have to adjust these dates.
Volunteers are needed to help pick up small debris from the removal and staging areas, and also do a clean sweep of area boat launch, dipnetting and camping sites. A cleanup in the fall of 2019 yielded two pickup loads of garbage. Chitina Village has been doing an outstanding job of managing trash and outhouses this summer, but there is still work to be done.
If you’d like to help with the volunteer event, please contact WISE at 822-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Lunch and gifts will be provided for volunteers, as well as protective equipment. We will be practicing social distancing, and volunteers also have the option of signing up to clean an area any time they choose during the week of the cleanup. We request that everyone who plans to volunteer sign up, so we can plan accordingly and keep you informed if there are changes.
The response to our crowdfunding campaign has been amazing, with over 100 donors contributing a total of over $10,000. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and Chitina Village have also contributed to the project. We are still fundraising to cover the trucking and disposal fees. Vehicles and recyclable metal will be hauled out of the area, and the remainder will go to the landfill in Gulkana. Costs are estimated to be about $15,000, not including WISE and CRWP staff time. The crowdfunding campaign can be accessed from the WISE website, www.wise-edu.org, or a check can be mailed to WISE at HC 60 Box 338A Copper Center, AK 99573.
Seven different teams are competing for the spot of top fundraiser, and right now the rising star is “In Remembrance of Jason Esler.” McCarthy resident Esler was passionate about creating waste solutions for the McCarthy/Kennecott area, and was tragically lost in an accident last fall.
The team is also hoping to have enough funds to design, purchase and install signs encouraging users of the area to practice good stewardship and help protect the area. A trashed area attracts more junk, while a clean, pristine landscape and good public education can help prevent another mess.
This project is a bright spot in an otherwise hard season, when we have had to say “no” to many things. Thanks everyone for your enthusiastic support, and especially Cruz Construction for making it possible.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.