After a decade of heavy erosion, a lake in the Bristol Bay village of Port Heiden finally breached this week. Water is now pouring into the bay.
Tribal Council President John Christensen noticed Goldfish Lake beginning to drain out slowly at the end of October.
“There was a little trickle. We went back a couple hours later it was a little bit bigger,” he said. “We went back the next day there was this big stream coming over. Next day after that it was flowing steady and just picked up steadily after that.”
Coastal erosion is an ongoing issue for Port Heiden. Residents abandoned an old village site by the lake in 2008. Although those buildings are still standing, other houses have fallen. In 2017, the village lost access to a road by the bluff.
Christensen said this week’s collapse exposed various debris around the lake.
“There’s some spent .50 caliber rounds in there; some anchors; there’s all sorts of debris,” he said. “We have to clean that up here, soon as the lake slows down from draining.”
Streams from a swamp behind the lake are feeding into the breach. Christensen says it is too soon to tell what will happen after the site is depleted.
“It might turn into a tiny river,” he said. “We were hoping to turn it into a boat harbor because we lost access to our last one. But we’ll see what it looks like in the end.”
Port Heiden has tracked erosion for the past three decades. In recent years, extreme storms and rising tides have accelerated the process.
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