Prince William SOUNDKEEPER®

Clean Water   Healthy Fisheries   Strong Communities

Soundkeeper's Log

Updates, Observations & Commentary
  • 26 Jan 2015 12:26 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    It's been a very mild winter in Prince William Sound, though traditionally Feb/March are the months to expect the heaviest snowfalls, so we still have a bit of time to "catch up". 

    Snowpack is essential to the Sound's ecosystem.  Adequate snowpack covering the watershed's mountainsides and salmon spawning streams acts as a water flow control device.  Ice and snow covering spawning streams helps the salmon eggs to hatch in a timely manner, and protects them from predators.  Without the ice coverage, salmon egg hatch times are delayed, and stream flooding and high flow periods can wash out eggs and/or cover them with sediment.  High water flood events can also completely change the stream's topography and completely wash out spawning beds, block runs, and reduce availability of aquatic insects (food for salmon fry).

    During the summer months, the snow pack on top of the mountains ensures that the watershed remains wet - an important thing in our northernmost temperate rainforest - and helps to regulate the overall temperature of the Sound.  Snowpack also protects plant life from being damaged by periods of hard frost, as well as the animals that need the snow for shelter and protection from the elements and predators.

    Prince William Sound's snowpack is clearly low this winter.  This unusually warm season may very well have a negative impact on the salmon run in 2017/18.

    While noting the mildness of the temperatures in the Sound, it behooves us to put it into world perspective.  December 2014 was recorded as the warmest December world wide.  The effects of our planet's warming are being felt, and are having an effect.  Right now.


  • 03 Oct 2014 5:17 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    We lost another great one this summer when Alaskan icon and long-time Prince William Sound environmental advocate, Walt Parker died this June at the age of 88.  Walt’s legacy and reputation leaves a lot for us to live up to.  He was active and engaged until the very end as illustrated by his recent service on the boards of the Prince William Sound Science Center, Oil Spill Recovery Institute, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council, Pacific Environment, and North Pacific Research Board. 

    The seat on the PWSRCAC board was filled by Bob Shavelson, Executive Director of Cook Inlet Keeper, our sister Keeper organization.  PWSK President Kate McLaughlin will serve as the alternate.  This seat is elected by the members of the Oil Spill Region Environmental Coalition.

  • 18 Jun 2014 6:28 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    John Devons, former mayor of Valdez during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, passed away on June 13 at the age of 74.  He was instrumental in the formation of the Oiled Mayors Association developed to advocate for communities during the spill, and he later lead the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council as its executive director from 1998 to 2009.  Prince William Sound Keeper would like to recognize his work for Prince William Sound and its water quality.  Our thoughts are with his family during their time of mourning.  A detailed article in the Alaska Dispatch can be read here:

  • 05 May 2014 6:26 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    The 28th Alaska State Legislature finally closed at the beginning of the month.  The Parnell Administration and the Republican majority made every effort to disenfranchise citizens by introducing bills that cut out citizen participation, oversight on resource management decisions, water rights allocation, and the injunction process.  They are trying everything they can to make Alaska a "Pay to Play" state, and with HB 47 poised to be signed by the Governor, they are that much closer to that fully realizing that goal. 

    As ED of PWSK, I have been serving as a Resource Advisory Committee Member for the USDA National Forest Service for the Chugach Region.  Recently, I had the pleasure (and challenge) of helping to decide how to award almost $500k for Chugach National Forest projects.  The RAC received twice as many proposals as there was money to award, therefore many very worthy projects were unable to be funded.  Projects that were awarded funding will deal this year with invasive weeds removal, trailhead improvements, and clean up & restoration projects involving outdoor education opportunities for youth across the Sound.  This kind of public service work often operates behind the scenes, but has a big impact on the overall health and quality of Prince William Sound. 
  • 20 Mar 2014 2:54 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    Monday, March 24, will mark a quarter of a century since Prince William Sound's ecosystem, communities and economy were altered irrevocably by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.  Only 13 of the 32 monitored resources, and associated resources services, are considered to be "recovered" or "likely recovered" as listed by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC) in their 2010 Status of Injured Resources and Services report.  Lingering oil is very much present, and recent studies are suggesting areas in the Sound were the oil is leaching out of the tidal substrate oil, creating more toxic exposure. 

    On February 19, 2014, Senator Berta Gardner, District H introduced SJR 25, which urges the state and federal governments to finally stand up to ExxonMobil’s stonewalling and file a motion in U.S. District Court to compel the payment.  The resolution further urges the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council immediately to initiate subsurface lingering oil restoration work.  The timing of this Resolution was very good.  With the EVOS anniversary and upcoming elections, our Representatives have a vested interest in showing their support for their constituencies and may just support this - especially if you call them and urge them to do so!

    While we still fight the fight for reparation, restoration, and recovery, more attacks on water quality and citizen rights are being made.  HB77 reared its ugly head again this past week in the State Legislature.  Over 75% of all comments and testimony submitted were against this terrible bill.   The bill went into committee this week.  I'll keep you posted on what the next development is.  The Governor really wants this bill passed and with the majority of the legislature supporting him, it might get shoved through regardless of the pubic opposition to it.

    This past month PWSK submitted a Letter of Support for SJR 25, a Compass opinion article to the Anchorage Daily News, and written testimony against HB77.  All these materials may be read in our Section "Report, Letters & Links.

    I will be traveling to Anchorage at the beginning of April to attend a workshop "Community-Based Monitoring: Observing Alaska's Coasts and Oceans" which is being held by a joint AOOS-Alaska Sea Grant Initiative.  I hope to come back with tools and techniques to help build a PWS citizen-monitoring program. 


  • 21 Feb 2014 1:49 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Long term supporter and one of our best sets of eyes and ears in the Sound is Dave Janka and the crew of the Auklet.  Dave sent me these pictures taken recently to show that 25+ years later lingering oil from the Exxon Valdez Oil spill is present, bio-available, and still impacting the health and quality of Prince William Sound.

    2-20-2014 PWS lingering oil
  • 27 Dec 2013 2:50 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    The last few months have been focused on two priorities - Fund Raising and Citizen Advocacy - with a priority for response to the proposed Alaska House Bill 77. 

    Our fundraising and membership drive was a success, especially due to the $3,000 membership donation match from the Leighty Foundation.  The Oceans Foundation has granted us continued general operating funding of $5,000 for 2014, and will be highlighting PWSK in January for their monthly Polar Seas Month.  PWSK will submit photos and information about our challenges and priorities for 2014 which will be mounted on their social media and web site.  This is a great opportunity to introduce PWSK to a broader audience and strengthen our relationship with The Oceans Foundation.  Fundraising remains a high priority for the continued sustainability and success of PWSK.

    HB 77 will come up before the Legislature in January, but due to concerted public opposition, there may be significant changes and revisions to it before it shows up again.  PWSK will be keeping a close eye on this legislation with our sister organization, Cook Inlet Keeper.  We will be making a joint formal comment to the Governor and the Legislature on this potentially disastrous bill for the state's fresh water quality and citizen resource stewardship and oversight. 

    PWSK recently commented to the Corps of Engineers on the Shepard's Point proposed deep water oil spill response vessel dock on Orca Inlet in Cordova.  The PWSK Board has mandated that our public comments should focus only on immediate threats to water quality.  Our comment on this proposed facility therefore was limited in its scope to the revised plan and it's potential impacts on water quality.  The letter also urged the Corps of Engineers to lengthen the public comment period.  Our comment can be read here.

  • 26 Sep 2013 3:27 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    In 1980 Congress designated the 2.1-million-acre Nellie Juan-College Fiord Wilderness Study Area, directing the U.S. Forest Service to report back on the suitability of all, part, or none of the area as federal wilderness.  In 1984 and 2002 the Forest Service recommended that most of the area be designated as federal wilderness.  Congress did not act and Prince William Sound still lacks official wilderness protection 30 years later.

    Since then the Sound experienced the ‘89 Exxon-Valdez oil spill, whose impacts linger.  Whittier’s Anton-Anderson Memorial tunnel (2000) caused exponential increase in vessel traffic.  PWS continues to be popular, underscoring the necessity of preserving some part of the Sound’s wilderness.       

    Our Mission is as an advocate to protect the water quality of Prince William Sound on behalf of all users.  PWSK recommends that all of the WSA be designated as wilderness (allowing for all previous resource use activities to be continued, i.e. boating, hunting and fishing).  This is a vitally important issue for the future sustainability and productivity of the Sound.  I urge all who love Prince William Sound to comment to the USFS on the importance of wilderness.


    You can read the letter that PWSK sent to the Chugach National Forest Revision Team in September regarding this issue here:


    PWSK Chugach Planning ltr 9-13.docx
  • 25 Sep 2013 4:01 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    September has been a busy month of writing letters.  Letters to foundations asking for funding support, comment letters and a letter to the editor.

    Prince William Soundkeeper needs more than just membership and volunteers to be able to accomplish our goals.  Without major foundation support, the organization will not be able to operate in a meaningful manner.  Towards that end, I have submitted over 50 letters to foundations introducing Prince William Soundkeeper and asking for operating support.  So far in response the Leighty Foundation is supporting our October Membership Drive with a 1:1 match up to $3,000 for every membership donation received. 

    This month PWSK submitted a comment to the US Forest Service on the Chugach National Forest Plan and the importance of Congress acting on the Wilderness Study Area in western Prince William Sound and a Letter to the Editor was submitted to the Anchorage Daily News on this issue as well. 
  • 08 Aug 2013 1:17 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Prince William Soundkeeper recognizes the importance of the Bering River Watershed and how it ultimately contributes to the health and vitality of Prince William Sound.  PWSK submitted a Letter of Support for permanently retiring the Bering River Coalfields from development.  See August's "In the NewS" on the main web site page for details on this issue.

    Bering River Coal Conservation comment.docx
Prince William Soundkeeper, PO Box 1368, Cordova, Alaska, 99574  tel: 907-424-5701  a 501c(3) non-profit organization.
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