Toksook Bay Tribe receives more than 10 million federal dollars for trail construction

Fish drying in Toksook Bay, Alaska. (State of Alaska photo)

The Trump administration has awarded a major grant to a small community on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

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The Toksook Bay Tribe has received more than $10 million to construct trails to the nearby community of Nightmute, and along the coast to the fishing grounds at Umkumiut, an important subsistence location.

“We catch all kinds of fish, like salmon, halibut, herring,” Toksook Bay Tribal Transportation Manager Harry Tulik said.

Tulik had just returned from muskox hunting when he got the news of the grant last week.

“We were overwhelmed and happy and so proud for our community,” Tulik said.

Besides facilitating access to subsistence, the trails will connect residents of Nightmute to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s subregional clinic in Toksook Bay.

The funding comes from a half-billion dollar grant program to improve transportation projects throughout the country. It goes by the acronym TIGER, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. This year more than half of that funding went to rural areas and to only one project in Alaska.

In Toksook Bay the money will pay for 21 miles of synthetic geo-cell mats laid across the tundra. Right now the existing trails are what have been carved by four-wheelers and snowmobiles.

“A big mess,” Tulik said.

The trails become too slushy or muddy to pass, causing drivers to take wider and wider paths that tear up the tundra.

The mats will stabilize the trails while providing temporary, local jobs.

Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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