The Kivalina River contains world class Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma
) which are utilized as a valuable subsistence resource by the local villagers and are also coveted by fly-in sport fishing enthusiasts. These fish are known to spawn below areas of fresh water springs on State and BLM-managed public lands in the middle reach of the Kivalina River. Another spawning ground is believed to be located in the upper reach of the middle fork. Although the general spawning areas are known (or suspected), until recently the specific locations of the spawning habitat have not been mapped with GPS, and other than some water quality information, habitat parameters have not been documented.
The goal of this project is characterize the Dolly Varden habitat in the upper Kivalina River watershed. The general objectives are to locate the Kivalina River Dolly Varden spawning grounds, map these areas with GPS, inventory the characteristics of the aquatic habitat including stream channel classification, and provide an estimate of the spawners present. In addition, fin clip samples have been collected for later genetic analysis and identification by Penny Crane with U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, as part of inclusion in a statewide Dolly Varden/Arctic char database. This continuing project proposes to return in 2011 to identify, characterize, and map the spawning habitat used in the lower fork (or eastern-most) drainage of the Kivalina River.
The possibility of road construction through the Kivalina watershed in support of resource development is the impetus for this project. A large block of State mining claims located mostly in the adjacent Kukpuk River drainage straddles a portion of the North Fork of the Kivalina River 5 miles upstream from the mouth of the middle fork. Untapped coal beds lie to the northwest. Oil and Gas development leases in the adjacent Chukchi Sea have recently been sold, and exploratory work is anticipated. The only industrial infrastructure in place is the nearby Red Dog Mine airstrip, road, and port. Future road development in support of resource development would likely affect the Kivalina River drainage. Baseline data collection in advance of permitted land use actions will assist BLM with management of the public lands through improved NEPA analysis and environmental review of any proposed action concerning future development in the upper Kivalina River drainage.