KANA Environmental Department

In 2018, KANA established our Environmental Department with funding received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Indian General Assistance Program (IGAP). This initiative aimed to create a consortium to address environmental concerns in collaboration with the ten Tribes of Kodiak. The Environmental Department’s primary responsibility is to evaluate the Tribes’ environmental priorities and develop and implement appropriate solutions. As a result, projects undertaken by the department are continuously evolving and subject to change.

Currently, we also receive funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Tribal Climate Resilience and the EPA Hazardous Waste Management Grant. To date, we have provided assistance to the Kodiak Tribes in various areas such as water quality monitoring, hazardous and solid waste management, and climate adaptation planning. We also offer technical assistance, hands-on training, and support to help build the capacity of tribal environmental programs in assessing and monitoring environmental changes.

To facilitate improved communication and collaboration on local environmental matters and initiatives, KANA hosts a monthly environmental workgroup called KELP (Kodiak Environmental Leaders & Professionals). This workgroup brings together tribes, local organizations, and partners to collectively address local environmental issues and promote cooperation.

If you would like to receive updates on any of the programs or join the KELP workgroup, contact:

Tyler Kornelis
Economic Development and Environmental Programs Manager
907.486.1393 | Tyler.Kornelis@kodiakhealthcare.org


Andie Wall
Environmental Coordinator, BIA TRP
907.486.1313 | Andie.wall@kodiakhealthcare.org

Environmental Department Programs:

KANA’s Environmental Team is working on two programs that support solid and hazardous waste management in Kodiak Villages.

Many of Alaska’s small rural communities use unlined landfills and burn wastes without emissions treatment. It’s the same here. There is no safe way to get rid of hazardous or potentially hazardous wastes in rural Alaska, and backhauling is expensive and logistically difficult.

That’s why Backhaul Alaska was created, with a long-term goal to become a waste service for Rural Alaska agencies, individuals, and businesses. Electronics such as computers and screens, lead-acid batteries, and fluorescent light bulbs make up the bulk of hazardous materials found in local landfills. Backhaul Alaska is currently in a pilot phase with Old Harbor, Ouzinkie, Port Lions, and Larsen Bay participating.

KANA participates in Backhaul Alaska by being the regional hub that local participating villages connect with to help managing in waste inventories and coordinate waste staging, and shipping logistics. KANA has developed a “Backhaul Best Practices” guide for the Kodiak region and is currently working on Conex container purchases to provide safe storage in each Kodiak community. KANA provides hands on assistance to communities and annual solid waste trainings. 

To learn more, visit backhaulalaska.org/

KANA is also funded through the EPA to increase hazardous waste disposal for Kodiak Tribes. Seven of the ten tribes are located off of the Kodiak road system, making these communities only accessible by air or water. These village communities are involved in varying degrees of waste management activities, generally in partnership with their respective municipal city governments.  Three of the ten tribes receive solid waste services in a sufficient manner from the Kodiak Island Borough. 

Every May, Kodiak Island Borough (KIB) holds a free ‘Community Spring Clean-Up’ event for residents on the road system; which excludes those seven tribes off the road system. At the ‘Community Spring Clean-Up’ they accept a wide range of waste streams though specifically targeting and encouraging disposal of hazardous waste (HW). For example: paint, finishes, use oil, use glycol.

KANA staff is working closely with the KIB to build strong partnership and develop a subcontract with partners allowing Tribes and residents residing in village communities to participate in the ‘Community Spring Clean-Up’. KANA is assisting with conducting HW inventory in these communities, coordinating packing and shipping HW to ensure the waste makes it to the central collection location for disposal.

With this one-time project funding from the EPA, we will be able to remove most of the HW from the remote village communities. With the information that we learn about transportation/packaging processes and costs; disposal/recycling costs; and associated labor to complete the process, we will develop a playbook for the remote communities to continue to participate in KIB’s ‘Community Spring Clean-up” event independently in the coming years.  

In 2021 KANA received funding through the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience Program (BIA TCRP) to work on climate adaptation planning in the Kodiak region. KANA, in partnership with Kodiak Tribes, is writing a Kodiak Tribal Climate Adaptation Plan which documents climate hazards for Kodiak Tribes, assesses vulnerabilities of key resources identified by Tribal members, outlines climate change data sets and monitoring efforts, and reviews ways to reduce climate-related risks. This is a two-year project that, upon completion, will result in a comprehensive living document that is representative of the risks that Kodiak Tribes face due to climate change and adaptation strategies for the future, along with a climate adaptation plan template that each Kodiak Tribe can use specifically for their own community. 

These planning efforts are being led by a steering committee made-up of individuals from communities and Tribes throughout Kodiak Island. The completion date for this project is in August of 2023. 

To learn more contact:

Grace Ellwanger – KANA Environmental Specialist at 907.486.1360, or email

To learn more about climate adaptation planning and see some examples, visit these sites: 

In 2023, KANA secured funding from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Beaches Environmental Assessment and Costal Health (BEACH) Grant Program to assess bacteria concentrations at recreational beaches on Kodiak Island. This initiative is being carried out in collaboration with the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak and the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor. This purpose of this program is to “decrease the incidence of water-borne illness at public beaches under the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act.” (https://dec.alaska.gov/water/water-quality/beach-program/ )

The designated beaches for this project include Mission Beach, Buskin Beach, Frye Point (Sometimes Island) and Lighthouse Beach (Old Harbor). This is a two-year project that may see continuation based on funding availability and results obtained over the entire project period.

  • To see the full field report for the 2023 sampling season in Kodiak, click here.
  • To learn more about the ADEC Beach Program and to see the latest lab results, visit beaches.alaska.gov
  • For more questions or to be added to the email notification list, email Environmental@kodiakhealthcare.org

Ocean acidification is a chemical process that occurs when human-generated carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed into the ocean. The additional CO2 changes the chemistry of seawater and makes it more acidic. This process has been accelerating since the industrial revolution as we burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, fuel cars and planes, and contribute to land-use changes such as deforestation. Because seawater acidity can directly impact marine life, ocean acidification will affect the health of the oceans around the world and the people that depend on them.

This project is part of an Alaska-wide effort funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Water samples have been collected by Tribal members since 2019. Communities that are participating in this program include the Native Village of Port Lions, Native Village of Ouzinkie, Native Village of Old Harbor, Native Village of Larsen Bay, and Kodiak Island Road System. The samples are tested for temperature, salinity, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. Results help build profiles of local conditions, seasonal changes and environmental impacts to help communities better understand water chemistry in their subsistence harvest areas.

Subsistence harvest of shoreside plants and shellfish is critical to the lives and traditional cultures of coastal Alaska Native communities. Understanding how ocean acidification works is critical to help us protect our subsistence resources.  

To learn more contact: 

Grace Ellwanger – KANA Environmental Specialist 907.486.1360 email grace.ellwanger@kodiakhealthcare.org


Andie Wall – KANA Environmental Coordinator 907.486.1313, email Andie.wall@kodiakhealthcare.org

For more information, visit:


The only way to know if subsistence harvested shellfish are safe to consume is to have them tested for paralytic shellfish toxins (see how here). There is no way to prepare shellfish infected with PSP toxins that will make them safe to eat. Biotoxins are not destroyed during cooking or freezing.

The most widely accepted method to monitor for harmful algal blooms and PSP in Alaska is to take a two-step approach. First by taking ocean water samples to analyze under a microscope for the phytoplankton that cause PSP. By getting a count of individuals, you can get a better understanding of whether or not a harmful algal bloom is occurring. Second is to collect shellfish every other week and have them tested for toxins. These methods are most successful when they are done consistently at the same location.

The program dedicated to monitoring harmful algal blooms (HABs) and paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) relies entirely on grants for funding. Presently, KANA does not possess the necessary funds to conduct monitoring activities. However, we are actively seeking funding opportunities to sustain and continue this vital program. Our team is working diligently to secure the necessary resources to resume monitoring efforts.

What is PSP?

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is caused by eating shellfish contaminated with saxitoxin. Saxitoxins, also known as paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs), are found naturally in Alaskan waters but can be found at heightened levels (know as a harmful algal bloom) with increased water temperatures and sunlight. Saxitoxins can be found in shellfish such as mussels, cockles, clams, scallops, oysters and crabs. Historically, Kodiak Island has had high levels of PSP. There are no beaches in the Kodiak Archipelago that are considered safe from PSP contamination.

PSP can cause deadly neurological symptoms but are generally mild. Symptoms can include numbness or tingling of the face, arms, and legs, headache, dizziness, nausea and loss of coordination. In severe cases, muscle paralysis and respiratory failure can occur and can lead to death in 2 to 25 hours.

If you experience any of these symptoms after eating shellfish, call your doctor, local health clinic, or 911 immediately.

To learn more contact: 

Grace Ellwanger – KANA Environmental Specialist at 907.486.1360, or email