Prince William SOUNDKEEPER®

Clean Water   Healthy Fisheries   Strong Communities

Soundkeeper's Log

Updates, Observations & Commentary
  • 15 Aug 2012 1:46 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Joe Banta works as a senior Project Manager for Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council.  He has worked for PWSRCAC since 1990 and is currently Project Manager for its Environmental Monitoring Program.  He also works closely with the organization's Scientific Advisory Committee.  Joe has a background in fishing and fisheries and grew up in Cordova and Prince William Sound.  He has a B.S. in biology and an M.A.T. from the University of Alaska Anchorage.  Joe lives in Anchorage with his wife and their three sons.

  • 25 Jul 2012 12:43 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    PWSK was very excited and pleased to welcome Nancy Bird onto our team this summer.  Unfortunately, Nancy's life got very difficult recently and she has had to step down after only a month of work in order to take care of seriously ill family members.

    We wish Nancy all the best in the coming months for her.  PWSK hopes that when the seas of Nancy's life settle down again, she'll be able and willing to return to PWSK were her skills are so very much needed.
  • 27 May 2012 4:17 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Prince William Soundkeeper is proud to announce the hiring of Nancy Bird as our new Associate Director. 

    Nancy comes to us from the Prince William Science Center where she served as their President.  Nancy has also served on the: Science Center's Board of Directors and the Advisory Board, the Oil Spill Recovery Institute, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council, and the North Pacific Research Board.

    Nancy's familiarity with non-profits and her dedication to preserving and protecting the natural resources and water quality of Prince William Sound will serve us well.   

    Welcome Nancy!
  • 10 May 2012 6:53 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    The annual face-to-face PWSK Board Meeting was held this year at the PWSK office in Cordova on May 4, 2012.  Board Members Liz Senear, Vince Kelly and Kate McLaughlin were present; with Dean Rand phoning into the meeting as he was preparing The Discovery in Whittier for her first spring trip to Cordova and other places within the Sound.

    A Meet & Greet was held at the office after the board meeting.  The Board Members enjoyed meeting our project partners, PWSK supporters and friends that stopped by.  Thoughts are we should perhaps make this an annual event?

    Refreshments were provided by Kate and Andy McLaughlin and prepared by PWSK member Bobbie Schumacher.  Highlights of the munchables included Sound caught and prepared kippered red salmon, smoked salmon and tanner crab dips.   Many thanks to Bobbie for her hard work and beautiful table preparation for the meeting.
  • 16 Feb 2012 3:59 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Hello Soundkeepers,

    I've been traveling around between Chenega Bay, Anchorage, the Mat-Su and Cordova over the past two week, dodging slush storms and high winds.  Good to be back at home with the wood stove burning and catch my breath.

    I will be sending out a letter to our membership shortly detailing PWSK's accomplishments this winter.  Some of the highlights in that newsletter will be:  a burgeoning collaboration on harbor cleanup issues with OSRI, CDFU, PWSSC, Sea Grant, local volunteers; keeping PWSK's noses to ground in order to advocate for resource user groups in PWS on issues such as the proposed Alaska Wet Dog race, and the unresolved EXXON Valdez re-Opener case; and obtaining continued support from Corp and Non-Profits and expanding our membership and volunteer base.

    Soundkeeper needs you!  Do you have a water quality or harbor clean up issue that you think should be a priority?  What types of advocacy should PWSK be doing and how do you think we should best accomplish that? Do you have extra time and would like to volunteer on behalf of PWSK?  We want to hear from you!  Please call us at 424-5701 or

  • 03 Jan 2012 9:03 AM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    To: Candy Snow, Natural Resource Specialist

          State of Alaska, Dept. of Natural Resources

          Division of Mining, Land & Water,vSouthcentral Region, Land Office

          550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 900C

          Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3577


    Re: PUBLIC NOTICE LAS 28297 - John Lang dba The Alaska Wet Dog Race


    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proposed event and for DNR’s extending the comment period on this subject, allowing for more opportunity for the affected public to become aware of this proposed activity and be able to make meaningful comment on the proposed Alaska Wet Dog Race (AWDR).

    The mission of the Prince William Soundkeeper is to protect water quality and the life it sustains in the Prince William Sound ecosystem. As a community based, nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization, Prince William Soundkeeper works to monitor, protect, and enhance the waters of Prince William Sound through active stewardship, research, monitoring and fact-based education.  The following are comments in general concerning the proposed race, and specifically as it pertains towards PWSK’s mission.

    General Comments:

    Planning Details, Community Support & Safety

    There are many impacts and issues to address when considering approval for this permit in general such as: safety issues over a large, remote areas that lack local US Coast Guard or medical presence, a lack of demonstrated support from listed communities to be visited by this race, and lack of a detailed plan for the event, i.e., number of support vessels listed, potential conflicts with other resource users, potential negative environmental impacts, etc.   Spring weather in the Sound can be extremely unpredictable; with high winds, fog, rain, sleet and snow and treacherous seas, rendering flying support aircraft and making marine vessel travel extremely dangerous, if not impossible (especially for PWC!).

    Economic and Shared Resource Impact

    Commercial, recreational and subsistence fishing is one of the largest sources of income for the residents of the Sound.  Late April, early May, is the start of the brief fishing season for the commercial fishermen working the salmon openers, the charter fisherman taking tourists out to catch their first halibut, and the local subsistence fisherman gathering their fish resources for the winter.  This time is crucial as fisherman of all stripes have limited opportunities to fill their quotas - or their larders - working between fishing openers and the weather.  Any disruption, or difficulty, added to that task could mean economic disaster for that family or community.  Tourism, another top economic industry in Alaska, is also starting its season in May.  Visitors enter the Sound in all types of vessels from cruise ships to sailboats and kayaks; but they are all seeking the same thing, to enjoy the natural beauty, wildlife and the wilderness experience that the Sound offers.  Kayaking and other such low impact recreational activities are very popular.  These activities would be occurring at the same time and in the same areas as the AWDR, as shown by the map submitted by the applicant.

    Specific Comments

    Because Prince William Soundkeeper (PWSK) is primarily concerned with water quality and the wildlife resources of the Sound; the remainder of our comments here will be directed specifically toward that topic. 

    Impacts to Local Communities and Camping Areas

    The focus and scope of the proposed event is quite large, and the applicant does not adequately address many difficulties and issues that this event would experience if permitted.  For example, the small, remote communities of the Sound that this race proposes to visit have not been directly contacted to seek their input or support for the event.  These communities are not going to be able to provide the infrastructure and physical support that will be necessary.  The communities have little to no interest in any kind of “international” exposure, and the suggested economic benefit that is to be gained by hosting racers is unsupported, and extremely questionable.

     PWS native communities such as Tatitlek and Chenega Bay have limited or no dock facilities; and no fuel, fuel waste, solid or hazardous waste facilities available to the public.  There are no stores, hotels, maintained camping areas or other public conveniences.   The influx of outsiders to these small remote communities in order to participate or witness this event would overwhelm the ability of those communities to handle it, resulting in direct negative impacts to the Sound’s water quality through non-point source waste sources such as loose bags of trash dumped or deposited on the docks, oily bilge water improperly disposed of, fuel spills and other such general harbor maintenance issues.   Issues regarding where the racers will camp, etc. also have not been adequately addressed.  Safe and sheltered landing areas are few and far between along Alaska’s coast.  These areas are already receiving high impacts from the regular users of the Sound; additional people competing for, and utilizing these remote camping areas would add a huge burden of environmental impact that has not been addressed for mitigation in the AWDR proposal information submitted.

    Incompatibility to Existing Resource Goals

    Area Designations

    Prince William Sound contains a U.S. Forest Service Wilderness Study Area.   The proposed route passes right through this area.  The activities of the Alaska Wet Dog Race are incompatible and are in direct conflict with the goals of the Wilderness Study Area.

    Wildlife Impacts

    The personal water craft (PWC) utilized in this event has many documented negative environmental impacts such as noise, air and water pollution.  They are very disruptive to wildlife and to other resource and recreational users. 

    The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) did considerable damage to Prince William Sound.  Over 20 years later, lingering oil can still be found in many areas of the Sound and it is still directly impacting wildlife.  The EVOS Trustee Council has listed wildlife species within the Sound who have suffered from EVOS and list them as “recovering”, “not recovered”, or “recovered”.  The species listed as “recovering” are: Barrow’s goldeneyes, black oystercatchers, killer whales, and sea otters.  Pigeon gullimots and Pacific herring are listed as “not recovering”.  Prince William Sound is home to many of Alaska’s State and Federal listed threatened and endangered species, or are “under consideration” for listing.   A few of these species include: humpback whale, sei whale, Stellar’s sea lion, Kittlitz’s murrelet, and the yellow-billed loon.  Many of these species utilize near shore areas for nesting, haul-outs and/or feeding.   

    The AWDR has scheduled the race for late April, early May.  This is the prime time for spring migrant bird and mammal activity along Alaska’s coasts.  This is also when the herring spawn happens which drives massive numbers of sea birds, sea lions, whales, bears, eagles, etc. to the intertidal and near shore areas throughout the Sound to feed on herring and herring spawn.  These same near shore, relatively shallow, “protected” areas are also those same areas in which PWC would normally run.  Prince William Sound, like most waters in Alaska, are extremely treacherous with cold, deep water, strong currents, steep cliff and rocky shorelines and unpredictable, severe weather during all seasons of the year. Operating PWC in those few areas which have calm, protected shore lines, will undoubtedly disturb wildlife that are also utilizing those areas.

    Environmental Impacts

    PWC operate at high rates of speed; usually cruising at 35-50 mph, but are capable of much faster speeds.   With their shallow draft, jet skis run a real risk of collision with submerged rocks or wildlife such as humpback whales while operating at high rates of speed in shallow waters.  PWC can be extremely loud.  Sound over water, especially on calm days, will travel for quite a ways.  PWC tend to operate in calm, shallow near shore waters.  The proximity to areas utilized by wildlife combined with the noise pollution generated by these craft not only disrupts the enjoyment of other recreational Sound users, but disrupts and disturbs the wildlife as well.

    Finally, PWSK is concerned about PWC and the direct impacts of their engines and the fuels used.  Until recently, all personal watercraft ran on two-stroke engines. Two strokes are notoriously bad for the environment because they run on a mixture of gas and oil.  Traditional PWC two-stroke engines are so inefficient they end up dumping up to 30 percent of their fuel into the water unburned.  In a single hour of run time, a 2000-model PWC will dump about 4 gallons (15 liters) of unburned oil and gas into the water.  Many of these older model 2-stroke PWC still exist – and could potentially be utilized for the AWDR.  Many PWC now have cleaner four-stroke engines, and many older two-stroke models have been updated to have direct fuel injection, catalytic converters and other pollution-control measures. These cleaner PWC are allowed in many recreation areas that have banned the older, dirtier models.  However, most national parks and many recreation areas still ban PWC because of pollution concerns from fuel additives such as methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE (an oxygenate added to gasoline), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs (by-products of the combustion process), and because of the previously mentioned problems with disruption of the natural experience for other resource users by PWCs.

    In conclusion, Prince William Soundkeeper does not support the approval of a Land/Water Use application for the Alaska Wet Dog Race seeing that the application lacks complete information and documentation; and because of the overall negative impacts of such an activity for the resources and resource users of Prince William Sound would far outweigh any perceived benefits from having the event occur.


    Kate McLaughlin, President, Prince William Soundkeeper



  • 30 Nov 2011 6:35 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Utilizing funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, the U.S. Coast Guard and the contractor, Global Diving and Salvage, is in the process of removing the derelict vessel Sound Developer from the bottom of the Cordova Harbor. 

    Read the rest of the story at The Cordova Times:
  • 18 Nov 2011 12:54 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Prince William SoundKeeper would like to thank our contributing Non-profit, Foundation  and Corporate Benefactors for their support:

    True North Foundation
    Copper Mountain Foundation / The Tatitlek Corporation
    National Outdoor Leadership School Instructor Courses
    Discovery Voyages

  • 14 Oct 2011 2:57 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    The L/C Sound Developer has been sitting on the bottom of Cordova Harbor for over a year now while the State, Feds, City and other interesting organziations such as PWSK have tried to figure out to get the vessel raised and out of the harbor.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard have solicited bids (bids due Oct. 13) from interested businesses to perform the following in Cordova Harbor:

    1. Remove the L/C SOUND DEVELOPER from its current location on the sea floor in Cordova Small Boat Harbor. The Coast Guard will consider removal options to include and not necessarily be limited to heavy lift operations and/or the use of internal or external flotation or a combination of each.
    2. Transport the vessel to a location where shore-based resources may be used to provide pollution removal actions.
    3. Once the vessel is on-shore, remove all identified sources of oil contamination to include equipment, barrels, buckets, and suspected oily slops contained in bilges and voids within the vessel and including the double bottom hull.
    4. Provide proper containment and disposal of all recovered oils and oil contaminated materials.

    For those interested in more information on this project see the listing on the web page:

  • 07 Oct 2011 2:13 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Did you know that there are no laws in Alaska prohibiting mining activities in salmon streams?

    Our sister organization, Cook Inlet Keeper, released an important report yesterday on the economics of wild, Alaskan salmon vs. strip mined coal destined for China.  And guess what?  Wild, Alaskan salmon and the jobs, food and other economic benefits they produce are more valuable than the coal.

    Citizens should ask themselves why Governor Parnell is more interested in allowing this coal project to go forward, which would result in low grade coal being sold to China and the destruction over 11 miles of pristine salmon habitat that supports all five species. 

    Salmon streams that have been destroyed have NEVER been able to be restored, yet that is exactly what the Chuitna supporters would have you believe.  What would the state get in return? Besides some meager taxes and fees, the burning of that coal would bring acid rain and mercury fallout over our state and nation, causing yet further harm on our ecosystems and human health. 

    Instead of doing his sworn duty to protect the natural resources of this state for the benefit of its citizens, Governor Parnell is pushing hard to get this project going.  In the past Gov. Parnell has stated that he would "never trade one natural resource over the other", yet this is exactly what he is doing.

    We urge concerned citizens to contact the Gov. Parnell and the Dept. of Environmental Conservation to protest the sell out of our renewable, natural resources.

    Read more about the Chuitna Coal project and the economic report here:

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