Klukwan resident Marvin Willard said dumping of fill by state Department of Transportation crews at 23 Mile Haines Highway has diverted a stream and ruined a downstream subsistence fishing spot just north of the village.
A local DOT official said the agency can’t control what happens with water outside the state’s right-of-way.
Willard said he’s been using the spot along the Chilkat River for about four years, a site that’s good for late-season fishing, where he and others kept smoke houses and cleaned their catch in a stream that ran nearby.
About a month ago, the fishing site was covered with a foot of mud and the creek was diverted, Willard said. “We can still use it as a setnet site, but we’ll have a hard time getting to it because of the mud. There’s a foot of mud scattered over the area for a quarter mile.”
The new route of the stream is unclear, he said. “We don’t know where it’s at now. It’s not running by us anymore.”
Haines DOT foreman Matt Boron said the mud flow has nothing to do with his crew’s work. “We are probably almost a mile away from the river. The thing is, is that when the 23 Mile stream floods and moves rock, it does whatever it wants to do. It re-channels itself, deposits rocks, etc. I have no control over what the stream does outside of our right-of-way.”
Willard said the 23 Mile slide has crossed the road for years, but this year the state dumped slide fill over an embankment. “It dumps mud every year;we never had this problem until they dumped it over the edge,” Willard said, adding that he personally witnessed such dumping and will document it in the future.
“I understand they need to dump it, but they don’t have to dump it on somebody else’s property. That land belongs to the village,” Willard said.
Boron said his crew hasn’t handled fill there differently this year. Rocks were dumped there but not on a water source, he said.