Fuel shortages have Tuluksak leaders worried about approaching winter

Out of 38,000 gallons of fuel purchased by the village, 12,000 was delivered
Published: Sep. 23, 2023 at 11:06 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Lack of fuel and worries about being able to freeze food from the year’s harvest is on the minds of people who live in the rural, Southwest community of Tuluksak.

As winter approached, the Tuluksak Native Community, northeast of Bethel, wrote in an email that they have been waiting on fuel delivery since late June from the company Vitus Marine.

“The Native Village of Tuluksak have been waiting on fuel delivery since the end of June, which Vitus promised to deliver but still has not to this day,” written in an email listed on the Bureau of Indian Affairs website. “Tribal Council members and the [Tuluksak Traditional Power Utility] manager have been bugging them all spring and summer to deliver the fuel before fishing season, berry picking season and moose hunting season in order to keep the freezers running so our community members do not lose any of the food they harvest for the up coming winter.”

Out of 38,000 gallons of fuel purchased by the village, 12,000 was delivered, according to numbers written in the email from Tuluksak and supported by the company, Vitus Marine.

“The Kuskokwim water levels have been lower than normal for much of the summer,” Justin Charon wrote in an email, Saturday, from Vitus Marine. “This slows everything now. To make matters worse Tuluksak is not directly on the Kuskokwim, it’s 1.5 miles down the Tuluksak River which is both narrow and shallow. The good news is the barge is on the way there to try again. Success is dependent on the water level. We’ll know more in a few days.”

It’s not uncommon for rural communities in Alaska to deal with issues like fuel shortages, Thom Leonard, VP of Corporate Affairs for Calista Corporation, a native corporation that helps Tulusak with various resources, said.

“Unfortunately, is not a unique situation and that’s why we’ve been working hard for decades in supporting any kind of funding that can improve the conditions in our villages,” Leonard said.