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History of Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council

Timeline created by pwsrcac in History
Event Date: Event Title: Event Description:
Evos The tanker Exxon Valdez runs aground on Bligh Reef. The Exxon Valdez oil spill is the largest oil spill to have occurred in the United States and is widely considered the most environmentally destructive, due to the remote and pristine condition of the damaged area. The oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on a charted rock, Bligh Reef, in Prince William Sound on Good Friday, March 24, 1989. The ship ran aground after leaving the designated tanker lanes because of earlier reports of icebergs in the area.
Oldlogo Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council signs a contrasct with Alyeska. The citizens’ council’s original logo included an eye overseeing tanker traffic.
Timeline Council begins independent monitoring of effluent from ballast water treatment plant at Alyeska tanker terminal. Council begins independent monitoring of effluent from ballast water treatment plant at Alyeska tanker terminal.
Timeline Assessing socioeconomic affects of the spill Council seeks proposals for assessing socioeconomic effects of oil spills.
1991bdmtg September Board Meeting 1991 At a council board meeting, board member Stan Stephens questions Jim Hermiller, then-President of Alyeska.
Timeline Towing of disabled tankers - study begins Council board votes to co-sponsor independent jointly funded study of towing disabled tankers. Also, Coast Guard appoints council to federal committee helping draft regulations for oil tanker preparedness and safety under a process called “regulatory negotiation.”
Timeline Nearshore Response planning First Nearshore Response Plan is submitted to Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Council notes gaps but says there is much to be pleased about.
Timeline Questions about Valdez air quality arise In an early round of what will become a years-long battle over tanker vapors, scientists hired by council dispute Alyeska claims that the tanker terminal is not responsible for most of the benzene in Valdez air. Alyeska had claimed the terminal produced only 25 percent of the benzene in outdoor air; the council analysis puts the figure at 90 percent or more.
92bdmtg September council board meeting 1992 Board members Ann Rothe and Bill Walker talk to Gary Bader, the Alyeska liaison to the council.
Ltemp Evaluating the long term effects of the Exxon Valdez oil. Council launches Long-Term Environmental Monitoring Program. Blue mussels and subtidal sediments are sampled twice a year from nine sites around Prince William Sound, the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island.
Timeline The council takes an official stand on dispersant use. The council board adopts official position on chemical dispersants for oil-spill cleanup: They should be used only in non-sensitive areas and only after mechanical recovery methods, such as booms and skimmers, have been deemed inadequate.
Gscott1993 Testifying on the need for tankers escorts. Gordon Scott, current member of the council’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response commitee, testifies at a U.S. Coast Guard hearing on escort requirements.
Timeline Disabled tanker study recomendations are released Part I of disabled tanker towing study completed. Main recommendations: Quick-deploy towing packages on all tankers, more drills and training, and closer escorts in Valdez Narrows.
Timeline Disabled tanker recomendations from study are released Part I of disabled tanker towing study completed. Main recommendations: Quick-deploy towing packages on all tankers, more drills and training, and closer escorts in Valdez Narrows.
Timeline Vapor control system to be installed Alyeska announces plans to install vapor control system to reduce emissions at tanker terminal.
Timeline Tanker Eastern Lion releases 8400 gallons of crude oil into Port Valdez Tanker Eastern Lion leaks about 8,400 gallons of North Slope crude while moored-at Alyeska terminal. Afterward, council recommends more aggressive initial spill response in the future, even to spills thought to be small. First reports had put the Eastern Lion leak at 50 gallons.
Timeline Nearshore response drill ARCO conducts first nearshore response drill in Port Valdez.
Kenaiandescort New Coast Guard rules require additional escorts for tankers New Coast Guard rules require additional escorts, tighter wind restrictions and changes in escort configuration for laden single-hull tankers. There are hints that new tugs, possibly the tractor tugs recommended by council, will eventually be used in Valdez Narrows. Council-supported disabled tanker towing study is used by Coast Guard in writing the rules.
Timeline Tanker risk assessment begins Council, shippers, Alyeska and regulators begin work on tanker risk assessment with goal of identifying changes in tanker operations that would yield the greatest safety improvement.
Timeline Vapor controls EPA orders vapor controls on two tanker loading berths at Valdez terminal by early 1998, partly ending a years-long dispute between Alyeska and council. Still at issue: are two berths enough?
Timeline The first contingency plans DEC approves contingency plans prepared by oil shippers for tanker spills, the first such plans drafted under rules adopted after Exxon Valdez spill. City of Cordova and Kodiak Island Borough file appeals.
Timeline Ballast water exchange requirements begin In the first step to combat possible invasion of Prince William Sound by aquatic nuisance species, President Clinton requires at-sea ballast exchange for foreign tankers bound for Valdez to export North Slope crude. Federal officials say the measure is a direct result of council recommendations.
Colglacier Ice from Columbia Glacier Council awards contract to study icebergs calved from Columbia Glacier and their effects on tanker traffic.
Ballast water creatures2 Invasive Species in tanker ballast water Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is hired by council to do a pilot study of the risk that Prince William Sound could be invaded by non-indigenous aquatic nuisance species carried in ballast water of arriving tankers.
Timeline Tugs in Prince William Sound Tanker risk assessment is released with several recommendations for improving tanker safety. In response, shippers promise changes including bigger tugs at Hinchinbrook Entrance, tests to see if tractor tugs should be used in Valdez Narrows, and “sentinel” plan to station a tug in central Prince William Sound.
Timeline New tractor escort tugs expected within 2 years Oil shipping companies announce plans to build two new tractor tugs to escort laden tankers through Prince William Sound, with the new escorts to be in service within two years.
Timeline More vapor controls added Vapor controls go into operation at Alyeska terminal on Berths 4 and 5.
Timeline Vapor control at two berths not enough Council board passes resolution calling for vapor controls at a third tanker berth at the Alyeska terminal, arguing that rising projections for North Slope oil production mean two berths won’t be enough.
Timeline Construction of double-hull tankers ARCO Marine announces plans to construct Millennium-class double hull tankers to meet OPA 90 phase-out requirements for single hull tankers.
Timeline Non-indigenous plankton regularly flushed into the sound The council’s non-indigenous species study is completed, with the researchers concluding that live plankton from distant ports are routinely flushed into Prince William Sound in ballast water of oil tankers. The question of whether any non-indigenous species have colonized the Sound will be explored in two-year follow-up study.
Timeline Vapor controls added to two berths. Vapor controls go into operation at Alyeska terminal on Berths 4 and 5.
Timeline Dispersants as a last resort Council board reiterates position on dispersants, calling for their use only as a last resort.
Timeline Whistleblowers call attention to the vapor control system The board hires its own experts to investigate the first of what will become a series of claims by whistleblowers that the vapor control system at Valdez tanker terminal could cause a catastrophic explosion. The review panel concludes the vapor system is “safe from all reasonable risk of catastrophic fire and explosion.”
Timeline Enhanced tractor tugs arrive in the sound First of two new Alyeska enhanced tractor tugs, the Nanuq, arrives in Prince William Sound.
Timeline 10th Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill On the tenth anniversary of Exxon Valdez oil spill, council issues special 28-page report concluding Alaska waters are safer today because of improvements made since 1989. But more remains to be done, the council concludes, and continued vigilance is essential to make sure safety is not reduced as memories of the spill fade. Council co-sponsors a major symposium in Valdez to mark the tenth anniversary, and participates in another in Anchorage.
Timeline Second tractor tug arrives Second enhanced tractor tug, the Tan’erliq, arrives in Prince William Sound.
Picou3 Coping with Technological Disasters Coping with Technological Disasters Culminating almost eight years of work, council issues “Coping with Technological Disasters,” a guidebook for communities facing the socioeconomic impacts of man-made catastrophes such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Timeline Council calls for continued commitment to double hull tankers Council calls on Gov. Tony Knowles to insist on safety requirements including continued commitment to double hulls as condition for state support of BP’s proposal to buy ARCO.
Timeline Whistleblowers continue to call attention to the vapor control system Whistleblowers continue to claim the vapor control system is unsafe, but an investigation by council, like one by the state-federal Joint Pipeline Office, rebuts the latest claims as well.
Timeline Council repeats call for more vapor controls Council board passes resolution repeating its call for vapor controls at third berth at Alyeska terminal in Valdez.
Timeline First double hull tanker christened First ARCO Millennium double-hull tanker is christened in Louisiana.
Timeline Second set of contingency plans approved DEC approves the second set of contingency plans for tanker spills drafted under the post-Exxon Valdez rules. The first set of tanker contingency plans, approved by DEC in 1995, is still under appeal.
Timeline Whistleblowers call attention to fire suppression system at the terminal Council gears up to analyze the new oil-spill contingency plan for the Valdez Marine Terminal, and hires experts to investigate the latest whistleblower claims of unsafe conditions at the Valdez tanker terminal, this time in the fire-suppression system.
Timeline Council assesses methods of ice decetion in Prince William Sound The council looks into methods of detecting icebergs in tanker lanes after the tanker risk assesment study determined that ice from Columbia Glacier was a factor in the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and identified them as a major ongoing risk for tanker traffic in the Sound.
Timeline Council visits similar organization in France Council staff and volunteers visit France by invitation of Syndicate Mixte, an organization formed after the December 12, 1999, oil spill off the coast of France.
Timeline Lingering Exxon Valdez oill Council scientists say lingering Exxon Valdez oil is still affecting the environment of the sound.
Timeline Ice detection radar project begins. Ice detection radar project begins.
Timeline Tanker ballast water contains invasive species A two-year ballast water taker study confirms non-native species are being transported to Alaska.
Timeline Coping with Tech Disasters wins Legacy Award The council’s “Coping with Technological Disasters” guidebook wins the 2000 Legacy Award from the States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force.
Timeline First test of geographic response strategies Tatitlek hosts the first test of Geographic Response Strategies.
Timeline Again, the council calls for more vapor controls Council calls for additional vapor control equipment at the third loading berth of the Valdez Marine Terminal.
Lewisconleycopeland Volunteers of the year, 2001 Steve Lewis, board representative from Seldovia; Bill Conley of the Port Operations and Vessel Traffic System Committee (middle); and Tom Copeland of the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Committee hold their Volunteer of the Year awards.
mussell recovery 2   caged musssels 4.29.2001 Environmental monitoring, sampling for hydrocarbons in mussels Council contractor Jim Payne and crew aboard the Lady Sandra hoisting an array of caged mussels and plastic strips after snagging the array with the improvised dragline. The arrays were heavy and required the use of a winch and manual labor to prevent damage or loss when brought aboard.
March 2001 peerllistener training w patience shpd Peer Listener Training Community members attended peer listener training in March 2001. Seated: Becky Andersen (left) and board member Patience Andersen Faulkner (right). Standing: Joe and Belen Cook.
Timeline Polar Endeavor begins service The Polar Endeavor, the first double hull tanker built under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, begins service in Prince William Sound.
Timeline Chemical dispersants effectiveness A council study shows that chemical dispersants would not work well in Prince William Sound waters.
2002 bob benda and jerry brookman with volunteer awards  12 2002 cropped Volunteers of the year 2002 Bob Benda (left) of the council’s Terminal Operations and Environmental Monitoring Committee and Jerry Brookman (right) of the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Committee hold their Volunteer of the Year awards.
Timeline Scaled back contingency plans? Industry proposes scaled back contingency plans that assume that no spill inside Prince William Sound will escape into the Gulf of Alaska.
Timeline Oil and sunlight Council study shows that exposure to sunlight increases the toxicity of oil to marine organisms.
Timeline EPA wants to exempy VMT from air pollution limits Council objects to Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to exempt Valdez tanker terminal from air pollution limits.
Timeline Dispersants safe for Prince William Sound? Council proposes ambitious research project to test safety of dispersant use in Prince William Sound.
Timeline Iceberg radar begins transmitting! Oil tanker safety in Prince William Sound takes a major step forward in December when an iceberg-detecting radar system on Reef Island begins transmitting to Valdez.
Timeline Surpirise SERVS drill Officials from the Coast Guard, state of Alaska, and SeaRiver Maritime surprise Alyeska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System with an unannounced drill. The drill demonstrates the need for more unannounced drills.
Timeline Council wins Legacy Award Council receives 2003 Legacy Award Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force for the council’s work on establishing the iceberg-detection radar system installed to monitor ice flowing from Columbia Glacier into Prince William Sound tanker traffic lanes.
Cordovabdmtg Council board meeting in Cordova. 2003: Council board meeting in Cordova.
Timeline Changes to the Valdez terminal Alyeska releases preliminary information about upcoming changes to the Valdez terminal to adapt to lower volume of oil produced on the North Slope.
Timeline Air pollution exemption reconsidered by EPA Environmental Protection Agency reconsiders regulatory exemption for ballast water vapors from the Valdez terminal.
Timeline Council looks at broken tether lines Council looks into several broken tether lines on the rescue tugs that escort oil-laden tankers out of Prince William Sound.
Timeline Ballast water exchange helps combat invasive species Studies show ballast water exchange helps combat invasive species.
Timeline Spill response outside of Prince William Sound Council launches planning for “downstream” oil spill response; that is, outside of Prince William Sound.
Timeline Overhaul of tanker terminal approved. Alyeska given the go-ahead by federal regulators to overhaul the tanker terminal.
Timeline Efforts to ensure tanker escorts continue with double-hull tankers begin. With double-hull tankers replacing single-hull tankers, the council begins efforts to ensure dual tug escorts continue for double hull tankers.
Timeline Council and Alyeska enter into a lawsuit over a report funded by the council. Council and Alyeska enter into a lawsuit over a report funded by the council. Report stated that the oil industry had been highly profitable during a time when the industry was claiming they needed to reduce environmental protections because of financial considerations. Alyeska claimed that council funds cannot be used for such an invesigation.
Timeline Prince William Soundkeeper formed. Prince William Soundkeeper is formed to oversee non-crude oil issues affecting the Sound’s environment.
Searle Sylvia Earle speaks at council event. 2005: Sylvia “Sturgeon General” Earle, oceanographer, explorer, author, lecturer and former chief scientist of NOAA was a guest lecturer at a council’s volunteer meeting in December 2005.
Timeline 10,000th tanker escorted through Prince William Sound. Alyeska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System escorts 10,000th loaded tanker through Prince William Sound.
Timeline Automated Identification System installed in the Valdez office. Installation of Automated Identification System in the Valdez office allows council to track ship movements in real time.
Timeline Council joins Alaska Invasive Species Working Group. Council joins Alaska Invasive Species Working Group.
Timeline Council votes to oppose dispersant use in Prince William Sound. Council votes to oppose any use of chemical dispersants for responding to North Slope crude oil spills in Prince William Sound and nearby waters.
Timeline Council issues report on the role of human error in oil spills. Council issues report on the role of human error in oil spills. The study finds that up to 80 percent of oil spills and other marine accidents can be attributed to human factors, either individual error or organization failure.
Timeline Long-running dispute resolved The citizens’ council and Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. resolve a long-running dispute over the council’s right to investigate the profitability of oil companies operating on Alaska’s North Slope. As a result of the settlement, Alyeska drops its claim that the council can’t use Alyeska contract funds for such investigations, and pays half the council’s legal expenses for the case.
Timeline Oral history of the Exxon Valdez spill The council begins a project to compile an oral history of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Sharon Bushell, a Homer oral historian, will record interviews with people directly involved in the spill or its aftermath.
Timeline Council calls for preservation of escort system The council adopts a new position on the Prince William Sound tanker escort system, calling for preservation of the two-tug escort requirement for loaded tankers, and for a limit of two loaded tankers in the system at any one time. The council also calls for a requirement to keep a high-performance vessel tug at the Hinchinbrook Entrance for emergency response.
Timeline The Alyeska Pipeline turns 30. The Alyeska Pipeline turns 30.
Timeline Council calls for ballast water regulation The council comments on possible new tanker ballast water regulations, saying the EPA should regulate ballast water from crude oil tankers serving the Valdez Marine Terminal to help prevent the spread of invasive species.
Timeline Council and ADEC call for more info before contingency plan renewal. The council and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation call for more information from oil tanker companies before Prince William Sound oil-spill contingency plans should be renewed.
Timeline Alaska approves new tanker contingency plan; steering committee formed. The state of Alaska approves new tanker contingency plans. Lingering concerns about shortcomings in the plans result in a steering committee being formed with members from the council, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Prince William Sound tanker operators, and Alyeska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System.
Hullfouling Hullfouling Studies In 2008, the council begins looking at the organisms that catch rides from port to port by attaching themselves to vessel hulls, a phenomenon known as hull fouling or biofouling.
Timeline Council staffer appointed to national invasive species committee Council staffer Lisa Ka’aihue is appointed to the national Invasive Species Advisory Committee.
Timeline Questions over unemployment taxes for fishing vessel crewmembers Questions arise over a state requirement that fishing vessel captains pay unemployment taxes for crew members during oil-spill response training. The council begins looking into possible fixes, such as a change to state law.
Timeline Ballast water treatment processes are connected to terminal Ballast water treatment processes are connected to the vapor control system at the Valdez Marine Terminal, greatly reducing emission of vapors.
Timeline Bill passes state House, solves fishing vessel crew unemployment issue House Bill 289 passes the state House, stating that during actual fishing operations, crew members are exempt from unemployment insurance requirements because their pay consists of a share of the value of the catch. The bill was supported by the oil industry, the citizens’ council, and the fishing industry.
Timeline Council study finds dispersant use would be impossible majority of time in the Sound. A new council study suggests dispersant effectiveness doesn’t matter much, because environmental conditions make the chemicals impossible to apply 75 percent of the time in central Prince William Sound and 60 percent of the time at Hinchinbrook Entrance.
Timeline Council joins SAFETUG study Council joins the international SAFETUG study to better understand the capabilities and limitations of the Sound’s current fleet of escort tugs.
Timeline Information and Education Committee formed The newly formed Information and Education Committee holds its inaugural meeting in Anchorage on June 12. The mission: support the council’s work by fostering public awareness, responsibility and participation through information and education.
Timeline Court slashes Exxon settlement The long-awaited ruling in the case of the Exxon Valdez oil spill is handed down June 25. The Supreme Court sets punitive damages at $507.5 million, bitterly disappointing thousands of commercial fishermen and other plaintiffs who had seen the award whittled down from $5 billion by a series of court rulings.
Timeline DOI withdraws preapproval of dispersant use U.S. Department of the Interior withdraws approval for what is called ‘preauthorized’ dispersant use in substantial parts of the Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet. Instead, the Interior Department said, spill managers will need to decide about dispersant use on a case-by-case basis.
Timeline Council voices concerns about NPDES The council raises concerns that the state of Alaska is not properly prepared to take on the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting program.
Boom Current Buster found to skim more oil A council study is released in October 2008 that shows that Alyeska’s Current Buster skimming system, adopted three years earlier, can collect spilled oil up to five times better than the traditional “U” configuration
Timeline New system for ballast water implemented At council urging, Alyeska implements a new system to capture and destroy hazardous vapors from the ballast water treatment facility.
Timeline "Spill" published The council’s oral history of the Exxon Valdez oil spill is published on the 20th anniversary of the 1989 grounding on Bligh Reef. Reviews of the book, titled “The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster,” are highly favorable inside Alaska and out.
Timeline AK legislature supports dual escort tugs The Alaska Legislature unanimously passes a council-sponsored resolution calling for the preservation of dual escort tugs for loaded oil tankers in Prince William Sound.
Timeline 20th Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill commemorated On March 24, the Council commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill with a series of teleconferences and presentations on the theme “Partners in Prevention.”
Escorts Legislation introduced to mandate tanker escorts for double hulled tankers. In May 2009, Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich introduce federal legislation to mandate the continuation of double escorts. Representative Don Young supported it in the House.
Timeline Cape St Elias weather monitoring station installed The council collaborates with the Prince William Sound Science Center, Cape Saint Elias Lightkeepers Association, and the Coast Guard to install a new state-of-the-art weather monitoring station that transmits information about current conditions to the internet in near real time. Purchased by the council, the station helps monitor conditions that could produce a weather phenomenon called “barrier jets.”
Timeline Council praises unannounced spill drill The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation surprises Alyeska Pipeline’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System with an unannounced oil spill drill. The council is pleased because they have been advocating for true no-notice drills for a number of years. Usually, drills are scheduled far in advance to allow time to plan the event.
Crowleytug Tug Pathfinder aground on Bligh Reef In December 2009, the Crowley tug Pathfinder runs aground on Bligh Reef, the same reef hit by the Exxon Valdez in 1989. Council's Blogspot on the incident at: www.pwsrcac.blogspot.com/
Timeline Fishing vessel program dispute comes to a head A long-simmering dispute comes to a head among participants in Alyeska’s oil-spill fishing vessel program. Fishing vessel captains note problems such as inadequate compensation, exclusion from the decision-making process, and lack of respect as reasons for declining participation. Alyeska proposes changes including a raise in wages, and fishers accept the changes.
Timeline BP's Deepwater Horizon rig explodes BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig explodes and begins to leak oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil continues gushing until August 4. Total gallons spilled is estimated at over 200 million gallons. The council is kept very busy responding to calls for assistance and information.