2021 HIA Environmental Recap-ithon

If You Reading Nothing Else :

In 2021 our environmental department worked to meet community priorities. We have provided the highlights of just some of that work in this year-end digest. All of our work couldn’t be accomplished without our amazing staff and partners. During 2021 Environmental Department members included (In Alphabetical order):Arianna Lapke, Ian Johnson, Jeremy Johnson, Jeromy grant, Jillian Schuyler, Jo Comolli, Kelly St. Clair, Leif Gray, Phillip Sharclane, Ricky Contreras, Rocko Johnson, Sean Williams, Susan Bradford, Ted Elliot

Invasive Species

We identified and invasive tunicate, the golden star tunicate, on our monitoring plates in Hoonah Harbor. The invasive species was reported to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. HIA works with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to deploy monitoring plates in the Harbor during the summer months. After 3 months of soaking, we pull the plates and identify the species present.

The golden star tunicate is a common marine invasive species. It cannot survive beneath 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit in seawater. Water temperatures in Hoonah during the winter can be lower than 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is not likely that any invasive species present over the summer will be able to survive the winter.

Only 1 solitary zooid (approximately 2 inches) of this tunicate was found on the monitoring plates. We will inspect the docks and piers using SCUBA to observe if there are additional invasive species in the Hoonah Harbor.

If you have seen this tunicate on your boat hull or other marine equipment, please report it to ADF&G, City of Hoonah, or HIA Environmental.

BOTRYLLE-ETOILE.PNG (792×792) (dfo-mpo.gc.ca)
This our sampling plate from the Hoonah Harbor with the invasive Tunicate

Endangered Species:

The hug 22-armed sunflower sea star is a candidate species for protection by the National Marine Fisheries Service through the Endangered Species Act.

The sunflower sea star is functionally extinct south of Seattle. It inhabits nearshore and continental shelf waters from Alaska to Baja, Mexico. Its population declined between 90-100% due to sea star wasting disease in 2013 – 2015.

There are healthy populations of sunflower sea stars in Hoonah’s nearshore waters. We are monitoring the sunflower sea stars using SCUBA diving to make sure they don’t exhibit any symptoms of sea star wasting disease.

Sea star wasting disease was identified in Hoonah in 2019.

We are writing a grant to BIA Endangered Species Program in order to remove marine debris and restore the sea star’s habitat in nearshore waters. Clean waters lead to healthy habitat, and healthy habitat supports our fisheries.

Icy Strait Advisory Committee

HIA Environmental supports community engagement and participation with the Icy Strait Advisory Committee. If you want to provide input to the Board of Fish or Board of Game, our office would be happy to consult with you on your proposal. Our goal is to assist you in writing successful proposals, and we can support you with scientific knowledge, scientific and proposal writing and editing, and expertise.

The Icy Strait Advisory Committee met 5 times in 2021, and was able to provide formal input on a number of topics, including:

  • Non-resident bag limits for sockeye salmon
  • Sitka herring sac-roe
  • Gillnet use
  • Squid fishing

Wrote a grant to assist the tribe with cooperative marine spatial planning and fisheries management. The goal of the grant is to identify community priorities for local fisheries management and local marine mammal management, and to work with a variety of government partners to help involve locals in the management of marine resources.

Oceanography dual enrollment

HIA is working with the University of Alaska Southeast, the UAS STEPS program, and Hoonah City Schools to offer college and high school science dual enrollment credits. Oceanography 101 is part of the UAS Applied Fisheries degree program, which includes an occupational endorsement, a certificate, an associates degree, and / or a Bachelor of Science degree.

OCN 101 is designed to meet Alaska state educational standards while also utilizing cultural relevance and hands-on learning to increase student success.

New Employee for More Youth Work

In February 2022, we’re excited to add Julian Narvaez to the HIA Environmental team. Julian is a former interpretive park ranger in Katmai. He will be helping with all-thing youth and environmental

Stream Restoration

The Hoonah Native Forest Partnership completed another stream restoration in the Spasski Watershed. The restoration improved salmon habitat for spawning and young salmon in almost 1000 feet of stream. We learned how to complete stream restorations using machinery and our local crew completed structures using handtools at 3 locations.


The TRAYLS Season brought together four Hoonah youth for a season of learning. Students were involved in food preparation, trail maintenance, fish pass maintenance, and stream restoration. They led community surveys in cultural wood usage and continued a program of tree coring in partnership with Wooster University. Proud of the work our youth did! We will be hiring in 2022, so keep your eyes out!



BEACH Program 

We have and will continue to collect water samples from two (2) Tier 1 beaches in Hoonah. Samples will be analyzed in a DEC-approved laboratory for presence of fecal coliforms and Enterococci. The goal of this project is to gather enough data to determine whether these beaches are meeting the water quality standards for fecal coliforms and enterococci based on single sample and/or geometric mean calculations. Weekly monitoring results will be posted on the DEC Beach Program Webpage and distributed to key stakeholders through a listserv. You can stay up to date with the progress of this study by visiting out website and clicking the link below; we look forward to continuing this study through this next spring and summer. 


This year Hoonah Indian Association started to work towards designing a biomass-district heating loop. “Biomass Heating” just means a big wood stove that is connected to heat piping. The project would pipe heat tp 7 buildings in the downtown area and produce electricity. It will create new jobs in town and help us get away from diesel-based energy. There will be a lot more about this new opportunity coming out in 2022

Potato gardens

This year we worked on a new potato bed above HIA Environmental. Thank you to ALL! Our volunteers who helped plant and then harvest. Thank you to Brian Bitz who donated a lot of seed potato this spring. We were able to give out Yukon Gold and Red potatoes. We kept a lot of Tlingit Seed Potato for next year.

Electronic Waste Backhaul 

The 2021 electronic waste collection event was a huge success due to the partnerships with Hoonah Indian Association, City of Hoonah, and Alaska Marine Lines (AML). This year we picked up electronic waste directly from homes while also hauling TVs, microwaves, speakers, computers, and lots more from the container at the landfill and loaded it into an AML container that we then shipped to SBK Recycling in Washington. We collected e-waste for a month and a half filling the AML container with e-waste and shipped to SBK Recycling where it will be broken down to have the heavy metals removed, then responsibly recycled. 

Water sampling/ PSP Updates 

From hot dry summer through the rain, sleet, and snow of this cold winter we sample the water in Gartina Creek and Shaman Point for ocean acidification and phytoplankton. We have also kept up with the shellfish sampling at least monthly, but due to bad weather and supply shortages at SEATOR, the time it takes us to get the results showing the PSP levels in the samples has been greatly increased. This however should be a temporary issue and we will be sampling and posting the results as we get them. 


Hoonah Indian Association was recognized by Alaska Conservation Foundation for their work as a conservation organization. Thank you ACF for the receipt of the “Lowell Thomas, Jr. Award for Outstanding Achievements by an Organization Doing Conservation Work

Social media

This has been our biggest year on social media yet! We’ve done our best (Thanks to Jillian) at posting frequently on our program. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook.

Instagram @hia_enviornmental

Facebook facebook.com/hiaenviornmental


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