River Conditions At Napaimute As Of 11:00 PM Tuesday Evening May1

At about 10:00 PM on Tuesday a fair amount of ice came through, but it only lasted an hour and the water was dropping as it went by.

The River Watch folks say there is still a good amount of ice upriver waiting to come down still.

 

The last push of ice at 10:00 PM

 

Looking upstream at 10:00 PM

 

What was left behind

 

Safe for another year...maybe?

 

Tonight's moon

Some Ice Now Coming Down Past Napaimute

No sooner did I hit the publish key on that last post when I looked up and low and behold here came some ice.

It appears that a minor jam broke lose and we had ice passing for almost an hour (5:45 pm).  It’s now diminished, but the water did come up almost a foot in the past two hours.

First substantial ice all day.

Kuskokwim Still Ice-Free at Napaimute

As of 5:30 p.m. the river is still ice-free – although word is that there is a jam located between Sleetmute and Red Devil; so more ice is on the way.  The water level has dropped about three feet since this morning.

 

It’s been cold and windy all day, with the wind coming from the west.  The sun is finally showing itself!

 

This is what the river has looked like all day - but it won't last once the jam upriver breaks

GCI Cell Service Comes to Napaimute

GCI Technician Installing Cell Equipment on the Tower at the Community Building

After weeks of delays due to the extended deep cold our region experienced this winter, the weather moderated and GCI technicians were able to install cell service in Napaimute on February 21st.

This system is the first of its kind in our region. The cell signal comes in through the small GCI dish we already have for our regular phones and Internet.

The cell signal is then broadcast through a special antennae from the tower we put up two years ago.

At this time, the range is limited to the original village site as far down as the airport, upstream to Avakumoff’s fish camp, and the foothills south of the River, but we are very thankful for this service.

It is very nice to be able to make and recieve calls from right in your own house or from any of the Tribe’s buildings.

Thank you GCI!

The Harvester Is Up And Running

2012 FIREWOOD HARVEST UPDATE:

After returning from the training in Washington, I (Mark Leary) spent an additional three days in Anchorage purchasing and shipping additional supplies for the project.

This included things like food, steel for the log skids, parts, and assorted oils, grease, etc. needed for our equipment.

The start-up expenses for this project have been great. A lot of it was anticipated, but some of it wasn’t like the several thousand in spare parts for the harvester that we purchased in Washington following the recommendation given at the training. We’ve also been getting a hard lesson in the cost of shipping freight to Rural Alaska. Fuel surcharges are higher than ever. The lowest I could find was 29%. So for every dollar we spent shipping freight, we pay an additional $0.29 in fuel surcharges!

The week of March 12 we all came back to Napaimute to do preparations for the harvest. Our first priority was to transport over 9,000 pounds of freight from Aniak to Napaimute. Besides all of the things I personally shipped from Anchorage, there were items that had been previously ordered. This included things like: tire chains for our equipment, steel banding, oxygen & acetylene for our cutting torch, batteries and a port-a-potty.

Moving harvesting freight by snow machine

We intended to move all of this freight by truck – the cheapest and easiest way – but the snow is so deep this year – it would take a plowed road on the River so we spent time measuring  the ice and marking  the route for plowing.  We tried plowing the road, but first the grader broke down. Luckily it broke down right here at Napaimute and not way down the River somewhere.

Then we started to plow a simple one lane road with our little dozer. The dozer made it down to just above Anita’s (about 12 miles) before it broke down too.  We have since fixed it and brought it back to Napaimute, but each break down is another expense.

After all of this trouble we ended up hauling the freight by snow machine and sled. The whole crew went down and got most of it in one trip. I went back a couple of days later and moved the last 3,500 lbs in one load. It was hard on the snow machine but it got done.

3,500 lb. load - the little pallet in front of Job Johnny is 2,500 lbs of steel banding

With all of the supplies in Napaimute we could now work on getting ready to do the harvest. One of our crew was dedicated to hauling additional fuel from Aniak – 100 gallons a day by snow machine. We burned up a lot of our fuel plowing out everything around here: the runway, the road on the beach, etc. and starting to realize that this wood harvest was going to take longer than planned, we needed additional fuel.

Plowing the runway

After breaking for the week end, our crew went back to work on March 19th. I was in Bethel intending to return on the 20th (the trip to Bethel is too long to just stay for 2 nights). The guys called on the afternoon of the 19th to report that trying to work was just a waste of Napaimute’s money. It was minus 30 in the morning. They were spending all their time just warming up equipment and trying to get it started. We decided it would be best to hold off and everybody returned home. It turned out to be a good decision as the rest of the week was even colder.

One of the many preparations: putting on the chains

Sawmilling 6,000' of dunnage

 

The weather finally broke and we hit the ground running during the week of March 26th. There was a lot to do so work went on from 9AM to 9PM, with me cooking. Preparations that week included:

  • Finish putting tire chains on loaders and truck
  • Sawmilling dunnage for the log bundles (we need 6,000 lineal feet)
  • Many little repairs/maintenances of the equipment
  • Welding the skids to modify them for hauling logs
  • Prepping the harvester for work after sitting all winter
  • Loading up all of the necessary support supplies and equipment for the move down to the harvest site.
  • Moving it all down there

Moving down to the harvest site was a major job in itself.  Between the deep snow and a couple of break downs (more expense) it took us the better part of two days to move everything and set up the camp.

 

2012 Native Village of Napaimute Annual Meeting Rescheduled:

Parting gifts for retiring Council Members Stan Kelly & Bobby Kristovich at the 2011 NVN Annual Meeting

At their April 25th regular meeting, the Napaimute Traditional Council decided to reschedule and relocate the 2012 NVN Annual Meeting.

This year’s meeting will be held in October in Anchorage.

The Council felt that with the increasingly high travel expense to Rural Alaska, a meeting in October in Anchorage would be more conducive to increasing tribal member attendance. A firm date has not been set yet, but they are thinking it would be good to hold the meeting during AFN week.

Administration will also be working to include an electronic component so that those members unable to attend in person, can still do so via the Internet.

Updates will be sent as plans for the 2012 NVN Meeting are solidified.

Thank you.

Kuskokwim Relatively Ice-Free As of 6:00 AM May 1

The water level rose a little during the night then receded taking most of the ice with it.  Come Tuesday morning the only ice around was mostly on the north shoreline.

 

However, there is still plenty of ice upriver that will be working its way downstream during the next week…so anything can happen.  We’ll keep  you posted.

 

Looking downriver from the Chapel at about 8:30 am

If you look closely you can see a thin strip of ice stretching from bank to bank - but beyond that is open water

Looking upstream of Napaimute at 8:30 am Tuesday morning May1

 

The Ice Started Moving At Napaimute

I flew into Napaimute Sunday morning and this was the view from the air:

Looking at the mouth of the Holokuk

Looking upstream towards the Holokuk

 

Looking across at Napaimute

 

And then we landed and I tried to drive a four-wheeler the two or more miles to the village but ran into snow drifts and a deep creek crossings; it was sunny and warm – about 50 degrees and the snow was melting rapidly. I only made it half way and had to walk – and carry my gear – the rest of the way.

 

I made it 95% through the drift..until

Oh no!

Once I dug the four-wheeler out I couldn’t go much further…or at least didn’t want to take the chance.

The water at this creek crossing appeared a little too deep to comfortably go across

Once I got settled in I went to bed.  About 6:00 am I heard the ice moving or shifting.  It really started moving at about 3:00 pm once the sun came out.

Looking downstream from the Chapel

Looking upstream from the Chapel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Large Scale Logging Comes To The Kuskokwim

2012 FIREWOOD HARVEST UPDATE, April 16:

“Starting  the 3rd Week & going over the hump”

Since our last report we have worked two weeks of twelve hour days and are going into a third week with deteriorating harvest conditions. Daytime temperatures are into the 50’s. It’s getting wet and sloppy – both on the River and in the woods. Thankfully, we are still getting a good freeze at night. My own days (Mark Leary) have begun at 6:30 AM making coffee, then breakfast for the crew by 8. They are on the job site by 9 AM. I use the late morning hours to do administrative work and chores to keep up the camp (wood, water, dishes, etc.). By 1 or 2 PM I bring a hot lunch to the crew at the harvest site then spend the rest of the afternoon helping out where needed. At 7 PM I come back up to start dinner. The crew comes up by 9 PM and we eat by 10. Then a little cleaning up, talking about how the day went, planning for the next, and off to bed.
 
The week of April 2nd our harvest went slow in the initial harvest area downstream of the dump road. The timber in this area was small, but we got what we could out of it and the stockpiles slowly grew. We all agreed that with the time remaining our focus should be getting the timber out of the woods and worry about bundling later in the spring. With this in mind, the timber was brought out full length first. Finding 40’ to 60’ trees hard to handle at times, we started having the harvester operator cut them in 24’ lengths so they can later be cut in half for the 12’ lengths the customer wants.
 

Loader bringing wood out full length

 

As the harvest area moves farther away the dozer skids out loads of timber....

...while another is being loaded

 

24' lengths

Full length piles

Better Volume:

Early into the week of April 9th we finally started getting to the area of big timber that we always knew was there, but the windfall is terrible. One thing that NRCS Forester was right about: we lost 50% of our timber since 2009 and they’re all big trees. Getting the windfall out with the harvester isn’t efficient right now. The trees are a tangled mess buried under the snow and many are frozen in. The harvester operator takes what windfall he can – the ones that aren’t too difficult to get out. Otherwise he can get three or four standing trees during the time it takes to get one tough windfall.  The rest of the windfall will have to wait. It’s almost heartbreaking to see all of this wood blown down. If we had been doing this project prior to 2009 we would be rolling in wood!

Hard to tell if you don't know what you're looking at, but all the big snow covered lumps are windblown trees Notice that many of the standing trees are leaning over as well.

Even with bigger, better timber the going is somewhat slow. With the majority of windfall being in-accessible at this time, volume is lower. On a good day we get 40 cords out. At this time we don’t know exactly how much we have. For the first week the computer wasn’t working right so we don’t have record of what was harvested. It has since been fixed, but it is always records lower than what we know the skids hold when fully loaded.

At the end of each day we try to calculate what has been harvested.  This is the most wood we’ve ever seen stockpiled in our region! If all goes well I believe we will be past the halfway point by the end of this week. When the wood is bundled we will get an accurate volume number.

The Waratah Man Comes to Town:

As promised at the training we attended at the Waratah dealership in Washington, Mr. Alan Waldman came to give us a hand on April 10th. Waratah is the manufacturer of the harvester head.

Alan Waldman, Product Support Manager, Waratah Forestry Attachments arrives in Napaimute

Alan spent three days with us, first fixing the computer, then observing and helping improve our harvest methods. He also worked with the guys on maintenance and minor repair issues with the harvester attachment. His time here was very valuable for us and it looked like he enjoyed it as well.

Catching a ride from the airfield

Putting on a new chain

The Harvester:

No complaints with the harvester machine its self. It is doing what we thought it could do and has worked well. There is a little down time each day for maintenance or the occasional thrown or broken chain, but overall it was the right machine for the job. Fuel consumption is good – 1/2 a tank per good long day. The volume we have to date wouldn’t have been possible without this machine.

The harvester in action - felling and delimbing a tree in about a minute

Where do we go from here?

We’ve been working hard to accomplish something that’s never been done in our region before – a large-scale timber harvest. We picked a tough year to do it in: above normal snow depth and extended cold. Our start-up expenses have been high, but we have the best crew available and once the actual harvest got started it has gone well – just a little slower than planned.

We will ge the quantity the customer wants eventually. So at the end of this week will will take a break to let the country finish thawing and drying out. We will resume the harvest late in May.

That’s the update.

Thank you.