History of Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council

Timeline created by pwsrcac
In History
  • The tanker Exxon Valdez runs aground on Bligh Reef.

    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.
  • Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council signs a contrasct with Alyeska.

    Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council signs a contrasct with Alyeska.
    The citizens’ council’s original logo included an eye overseeing tanker traffic.
  • 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.
  • Assessing socioeconomic affects of the spill

    Council seeks proposals for assessing socioeconomic effects of oil spills.
  • September Board Meeting 1991

    September Board Meeting 1991
    At a council board meeting, board member Stan Stephens questions Jim Hermiller, then-President of Alyeska.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • September council board meeting 1992

    September council board meeting 1992
    Board members Ann Rothe and Bill Walker talk to Gary Bader, the Alyeska liaison to the council.
  • Evaluating the long term effects of the Exxon Valdez oil.

    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.
  • 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.
  • Testifying on the need for tankers escorts.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Vapor control system to be installed

    Alyeska announces plans to install vapor control system to reduce emissions at tanker terminal.
  • 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.
  • Nearshore response drill

    ARCO conducts first nearshore response drill in Port Valdez.
  • New Coast Guard rules require additional escorts for tankers

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ice from Columbia Glacier

    Ice from Columbia Glacier
    Council awards contract to study icebergs calved from Columbia Glacier and their effects on tanker traffic.
  • Invasive Species in tanker ballast water

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • More vapor controls added

    Vapor controls go into operation at Alyeska terminal on Berths 4 and 5.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Vapor controls added to two berths.

    Vapor controls go into operation at Alyeska terminal on Berths 4 and 5.
  • Dispersants as a last resort

    Council board reiterates position on dispersants, calling for their use only as a last resort.
  • 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.”
  • Enhanced tractor tugs arrive in the sound

    First of two new Alyeska enhanced tractor tugs, the Nanuq, arrives in Prince William Sound.
  • 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.
  • Second tractor tug arrives

    Second enhanced tractor tug, the Tan’erliq, arrives in Prince William Sound.
  • Coping with Technological Disasters

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • First double hull tanker christened

    First ARCO Millennium double-hull tanker is christened in Louisiana.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lingering Exxon Valdez oill

    Council scientists say lingering Exxon Valdez oil is still affecting the environment of the sound.
  • Ice detection radar project begins.

    Ice detection radar project begins.
  • Tanker ballast water contains invasive species

    A two-year ballast water taker study confirms non-native species are being transported to Alaska.
  • 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.
  • First test of geographic response strategies

    Tatitlek hosts the first test of Geographic Response Strategies.
  • 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.
  • Volunteers of the year, 2001

    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.
  • Environmental monitoring, sampling for hydrocarbons in mussels

    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.
  • Peer Listener Training

    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.
  • 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.
  • Chemical dispersants effectiveness

    A council study shows that chemical dispersants would not work well in Prince William Sound waters.
  • Volunteers of the year 2002

    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.
  • 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.
  • Oil and sunlight

    Council study shows that exposure to sunlight increases the toxicity of oil to marine organisms.
  • 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.
  • Dispersants safe for Prince William Sound?

    Council proposes ambitious research project to test safety of dispersant use in Prince William Sound.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Council board meeting in Cordova.

    Council board meeting in Cordova.
    2003: Council board meeting in Cordova.
  • 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.
  • Air pollution exemption reconsidered by EPA

    Environmental Protection Agency reconsiders regulatory exemption for ballast water vapors from the Valdez terminal.
  • 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.
  • Ballast water exchange helps combat invasive species

    Studies show ballast water exchange helps combat invasive species.
  • Spill response outside of Prince William Sound

    Council launches planning for “downstream” oil spill response; that is, outside of Prince William Sound.
  • Overhaul of tanker terminal approved.

    Alyeska given the go-ahead by federal regulators to overhaul the tanker terminal.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Prince William Soundkeeper formed.

    Prince William Soundkeeper is formed to oversee non-crude oil issues affecting the Sound’s environment.
  • Sylvia Earle speaks at council event.

    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.
  • 10,000th tanker escorted through Prince William Sound.

    Alyeska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System escorts 10,000th loaded tanker through Prince William Sound.
  • 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.
  • Council joins Alaska Invasive Species Working Group.

    Council joins Alaska Invasive Species Working Group.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Alyeska Pipeline turns 30.

    The Alyeska Pipeline turns 30.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Studies

    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.
  • Council staffer appointed to national invasive species committee

    Council staffer Lisa Ka’aihue is appointed to the national Invasive Species Advisory Committee.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Current Buster found to skim more oil

    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
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • 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.”
  • Legislation introduced to mandate tanker escorts for double hulled tankers.

    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.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • Tug Pathfinder aground on Bligh Reef

    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/
  • 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.
  • 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.