Tier 3 public workshop held in Dillingham

May 2, 2017

The workshop's purpose was to gather public input on how the community felt about designating Tier 3 waterways. It was the only public workshop  to be held in regional Alaska. 

The Koktuli River in the Bristol Bay watershed is one of four rivers nominated for Tier 3 status.
Credit Todd Radenbaugh/Flickr Creative Commons

Around 25 members of the public were at the Bristol Bay campus this week for the Tier 3 public workshop led by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The workshop is part of the ongoing process of designing a mechanism to classify Outstanding Natural Resource Waterways (ONRW), which are also known as Tier 3 waterways. 

The Koktuli River in the Bristol Bay watershed has been nominated for the designation.

“The Governor really supports this effort to get this kind of public outreach and public input,” policy analyst Caroline Schultz said.

Schultz attended the Dillingham workshop and said she was excited to find out the opinions of regional Alaska.

“We really want to find out what people in the community have to say,” she said.

Examples of Tier 3 waterways are waters that constitute an outstanding resource, such as those found in national and state parks and wildlife refuges. The designation is also meant to ensure that the “water quality shall be maintained and protected.”

This process is underway because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires the state of Alaska to be in the process of designating Tier 3 waterways.

Discussions at the workshop ranged from whether the rivers should be nominated to how these nominations would affect the broader community.

Debate also centered on who should be able to nominate the waterways.

“We don’t want to make it so narrow that it eliminates tribes, but make it so broad that someone from Vermont can nominate waters because they own a sport guiding camp,” Dorothy B. Larson said.

This was the fifth and final public workshop. Previous workshops were held Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

Michelle Hale is the director of the Division of Water at the DEC and said the department will now look  at all the information they have gathered and decide how to proceed.

“It’s important for the Governor, it’s important for the DEC and it is important for the people who made the nominations,” Hale said.

“So we want to figure out what those next steps are and that is what we are going to be doing next.”

There are currently four rivers nominated for Tier 3 status in Alaska. Along with the Koktuli River, the Chandalar River, the Chilkat River and the Yakutat Forelands are also under consideration.

Reach the author at lawrence@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281.