Sound Progressexxon valdez 5 pgs

Joel Sharrer
November 11, 1999
Research Paper #1
S. Rheingans

Sound Progress

The Exxon Valdez oil spill in the Prince William Sound of Alaska proved to be a disaster on many levels. The coastline, wildlife, and people of the all area were all devastated by the spill. Ten years later, the area is showing remarkable progress. Because of the cleanup efforts and new regulations, the Sound is getting ever closer to recovery.
A few minutes after midnight on March 24, 1989, the T/V Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. A few minutes later the coast guard received a radio message from the ship’s captain, Joseph Hazelwood: “We’ve fetched up – ah – hard aground north of Goose Island off Bligh Reef, and – ah – evidently leaking some oil. We’re going to be here for a while.”(Knickerbocker, Big Spill 12) That radio call was the beginning of the worst oil spill in United States history. The “some oil” that Hazelwood was referring to ended up being an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil. The oil covered nearly 1,300 miles of shoreline and eventually reached beaches 470 miles away. (McAllister C14).
At the time of the spill, officials had no immediate plan for cleaning up the oil. The spill struck in a remote part of a state where the population of caribou easily outnumbers people. Spokesman for the Govoner’s office David Ramseur agreed. “You need a lot of people and a lot of equipment, and we don’t have enough.”(McAllister C14) At the time, that statement was sadly true. The area just wasn’t prepared to handle a spill of that magnitude.
Other than the coastline, the spill also effected the local residents of the area, primarily the region’s wildlife. The spill ultimately killed more than 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 150 bald eagles, and 14 to 22 killer whales, along with billions of herring eggs. (number6) This proved to be equally detrimental to the 7,200 human residents of Southern Alaska. The fishing port at Cordova was the nation’s seventh most lucrative fishing harbor the year before the spill. It averaged $44 million in revenue each year. Four years after the spill in 1993, it slipped to number 51 with earnings down $19 million from 1988. The city also faced other severe losses. A former mayor committed suicide, and the city has gone through six mental health directors. (Murphy E1)
Clean up efforts were almost as massive as the spill itself. During most of 1989, the focus of the project was containing and cleaning up the spill and rescuing oiled wildlife. Specially rigged boats called Skimmers were used to remove the oil from the water. Containment buoys called boons were set up to prevent the oil from reaching the salmon hatcheries that were an essential part of the area’s economy. (Opdyke B1) Efforts including thousands of workers and a fleet of private fishing vessels worked admittedly to clean up the spill. After the initial clean up in 1989, there was still a lot of work to be done. In 1990, the shoreline was once again evaluated and a special technique called bioremediation (applying fertilizers to oiled shoreline to speed up oil-metabolizing microbes) was used on the sections of the sound where oil still remained. (Opdyke B1)
All told, the spill proved to be the most costly in history. In addition to the 2.2 billion dollars it had to spend on the cleanup, Exxon was now faced with thousands upon thousands of civil law suits. A settlement reached between Exxon and federal and state governments cost the corporation nearly a billion dollars. In September of 1994, a jury found in favor of 40,000 people, including commercial fishermen, and other Alaskan residents, and awarded them 5.3 billion dollars in damages. (Rueters F8) According to Exxon lawyer John Daum, “The award is 200 times the largest award ever affirmed by any federal court anywhere.”
All of this money presented a new question, how to spend it? Legal mandates made sure that the billion-dollar settlement would be spent on projects related to the recovery of the region. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC) had the job of doing just that. The EVOSTC decided to spend the money on