Ongoing power outages spoil summer subsistence harvests in Tuluksak

Tuluksak (Photo from NOAA)

Generator problems have meant ongoing power outages for Tuluksak over the past month. Lack of electricity to operate freezers means that many people have already lost their summer subsistence harvest, and the problem is expected to continue into early next week.

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For Tuluksak resident Angela Alexie, living in the lower Kuskokwim River community is like living at a giant fish camp.

“You know, when you’re living out at fish camp you have to have a generator, or some people have a generator,” Alexie explained.

Alexie hears the motors of generators running day and night; the power has been out for about a week. Earlier in July, it was out for another week. Alexie’s generator is small and can only run a few appliances at a time. She has to buy diesel every day to fuel it, and it’s not big enough to run her stove or her freezer.

“I had to take some of my fish out and take it over to my parents’ freezer before I lost everything,” Alexie said.

Alexie’s dry fish should be fine. She’s whipped her salmon berries into akutaq to prolong them, but Alexie has not been able to save everything.

“All my half-dry fish, gaamaarrluk, that I had to feed to the dogs,” Alexie said.

Alexie has lost about a quarter of her subsistence fish, which is shared among four families: Alexie’s, her parents’, and her two sisters’. She’s hoping for a strong silver salmon run to help replace what was lost, but the drying weather in August is not expected to be as good as it was earlier in the summer.

In Tuluksak, not every home has a generator. Alexie’s parents bought hers two years ago after another week-long power outage that wiped out her fall and winter subsistence catch. Multi-day power outages are a frequent problem in the community, and residents have become frustrated with the inconvenience and cost of the situation.

“Here and there, there’s more generators every year in the village,” Alexie said.

The Tuluksak Native Community operates the power plant. Parts for the broken generator are expected to arrive in Anchorage on Monday.