Prince William SOUNDKEEPER®

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Soundkeeper's Log

Updates, Observations & Commentary
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  • 04 Apr 2010 5:35 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Law school students nationwide are facing growing attacks in the courts and legislatures as legal clinics at the schools increasingly take on powerful interests that few other nonprofit groups have the resources to challenge.

    And legal experts say the attacks jeopardize the work of the clinics, which not only train students with hands-on courtroom experience at more than 200 law schools but also have taken on more cases against companies and government agencies in recent years.

    Read the article here:
  • 19 Mar 2010 8:46 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has convened a Science Advisory Panel (SAP) 2009.  This group is a scientific advisory group structured to provide a balanced, technical expert assessment of commercial passenger vessel wastewater treatment systems. The purpose of the panel is to advise DEC and create a report on the effectiveness of wastewater systems in use, additional technologically effective and economically feasible methods that could be employed on-board these ships or on land to treat cruise ship wastewater, and the environmental benefit and cost of implementing such additional methods. The scope of the SAP is that of a consultative and advisory rather than a rulemaking body.
    The Science Advisory Panel’s first meeting was held on February 1, 2010.  The webpage to support that meeting has been updated to include a meeting summary and a tracked version of the Science Advisory Panel’s charter.  You may view these additions at the following website:
    In addition, Michelle Ridgway and Kenneth Fisher have been appointed to the Science Advisory Panel.  You may view their biographies at:
    All eleven seats are now full.
    We are planning on the next Science Advisory Panel meeting being held in Juneau, Alaska in June 2010.  More information to come.
    Denise Koch
    Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
    Cruise Ship Program Manager
    (907) 465-5312
  • 19 Mar 2010 8:35 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    1) Click here to read PWS RCAC's Report

    2) Read the ADN article by ELIZABETH BLUEMINK below:
    (03/15/10 12:50:39)
    The operator of the trans-Alaska pipeline and Valdez tanker port is reporting a shortfall in the number of fishing boats ready to provide aid in the event of a Prince William Sound oil spill.

    State regulators require the operator, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., to contract with hundreds of fishing boats in Southcentral Alaska to be on call to help clean up oil spills.

    In January, Alyeska said it had 20 fewer fishing vessels than required ready to respond to a tanker spill in Prince William Sound. But the shortfall may have been as high as 33 vessels, according to an oil-spill watchdog group.

    In Prince William Sound, roughly 200 fishing boats must be ready to respond to a tanker spill, according to the state's mandatory spill response plan for North Slope crude oil tankers.

    Alyeska revealed the shortage of fishing vessel responders to state regulators during an inspection in January. Since then, Alyeska has been on a recruiting push. On Friday, the company said its shortfall has dropped to five vessels.

    Alyeska's fishing-vessel program has suffered for years due to low pay, lack of respect toward fishermen and the exclusion of them from decision making about the program, according to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council, the watchdog group.

    Homer commercial salmon driftnetter John Velsko said only half of the vessels traditionally involved in Alyeska's spill-training exercises in the Homer area received training last year.

    Velsko, a council board member who has been under contract with Alyeska for 12 years, said the company's pay rate has not kept pace with escalating vessel fees and insurance costs.

    "In the past, fishing vessel owners have been doing this as a public service, but now the costs have become so high that they have a hard time justifying it," he said.

    He said Alyeska has not granted a reasonable pay increase to the fishermen in 20 years.

    "There's a long chain of evidence that the problem has been building for a while," said Stan Jones, the citizen council's spokesman. He said the council and fishing-boat captains have been warning Alyeska and regulators about problems with the program since 2005.

    Among other signs that the program remains in trouble, according to the citizen council:

    • A 2009 council survey of 150 boat captains showed only half of them could meet a requirement that they leave port to respond to a spill within 24 hours.

    • Only 267 boats participated in spill-response training in 2009 compared to 328 in 2006.

    Alyeska said Friday it instituted a temporary 10 percent pay increase for the vessels in the program to help boost participation.

    Alyeska and the watchdog group plan to co-fund a study to explore the pay rate and other factors blamed for the decline in participation.

    "The point of the study is to get a clear understanding of what will fix the problem," said Michelle Egan, an Alyeska spokeswoman.

    John Kotula, who runs the marine vessels section for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, said his agency began discussing the shortfall with Alyeska on Jan. 26, days after a state inspection.

    He said the department will investigate Alyeska's noncompliance with the oil tanker spill contingency plan.

    The Prince William Sound, Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak fishing fleets have played a key role in responding to oil-spill emergencies ever since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

    Following the spill, state regulators required Alyeska to contract with the fishing vessel owners, compensating them both for their participation in training activities and responding to spills on the water.

    Find Elizabeth Bluemink online at or call 257-4317. 
  • 16 Mar 2010 10:06 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    towing boom.jpgMarch 16,
    Today we were out in Sheep Bay on a spill drill. It was a gorgeous day to be on the water! The drill was uneventful. Here is the view off the stern as we towed boom around.
  • 10 Feb 2010 7:36 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Just before Christmas, Haines resident Gershon Cohen was appointed to the Science Advisory Panel created to advise the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on matters relating to cruise ship wastewater treatment. In his appointment letter, DEC noted that the panel would benefit from his experience with cruise ship wastewater regulation and legislation. Unfortunately, his invitation to participate in the panel was revoked in January because he was too much of an advocate.
    Gershon has consistently been an advocate for clean water in Alaska and has been part of the process since the Legislature began discussing cruise ship wastewater issues. He was also part of the group that led the way on the cruise ship head tax initiative, co authoring the initiative with Joe Geldhoff. His expertise is well recognized and sought after throughout communities in the lower 48 that are dealing with impacts of the cruise industry.

    In 2009, PWSK worked with Gershon, Joe Gedhoff, and Chip Thoma, President, Alaskans for Responsible Cruising, to protect the voter initiative -- specifically to protect the prohibition of mixing zones for cruise ships in Alaskan waters.
    As Representative Beth Kerttula stated so very well in her recent newsletter "In America, advocacy should never be a reason for discrimination. The panel was designed to have at least one member affiliated with a non-governmental organization with an interest in water quality matters and at least one member from the cruise ship industry – for balance.
    Why would DEC use Dr. Cohen’s advocacy (which they had recognized earlier) as a reason to remove him from the panel? The answer is unfortunately pressure from the cruise industry. It is completely inappropriate for an agency to allow the industry it is supposed to regulate to influence a decision like this.
    More than a week after sending a letter to the governor with several fellow Democrats from both the House and the Senate, we received a letter from the commissioner of DEC that didn’t really explain anything. I’m particularly concerned that DEC’s response doesn’t deal with industry control".
  • 03 Nov 2009 7:40 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    A volunteer Clean Harbor team has been launched by Cordova PWSK member Karen Swartzbart and PWSK CEMP program director, Kirsti Jurica, with the support of the Cordova Harbor Office, Alaska Marine Response and the USCG. The group plans to recruit and train volunteers for an ongoing harbor patrol to help keep the Cordova harbor clean and to raise awareness regarding marine debris prevention. Andy Craig and Brent Davis of Alaska Marine Response recently met with the group to discuss the basics of harbor spill response and give volunteers a tour of the Sound Developer response site. To volunteer, email
  • 03 Nov 2009 7:39 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    A big thank you to Alaska Marine Response, Global Diving and Chief Todd Taylor, USCG! PWSK continues to monitor ongoing response to the sinking of the Sound Developer, working with the City of Cordova, Alaska Marine Response, Global Diving, the USCG and others. On August 27, the Sound Developer, a 117’ landing craft, sank at its slip in the Cordova harbor. The vessel had not been operated since 2003 when it was purchased by its current owner. It was reported to have been readied for non-operational status in 2004, however the sunken vessel continued to leak petroleum products into the harbor for over two months while responders, agencies and citizens worked to get the vessel removed. Within several hours of the initial incident response by the Cordova harbor staff, Cordova based Alaska Marine Response (AMR) was contracted to contain pollution at the site, booming off the area, monitoring the site around the clock and documenting and responding to a continued steady discharge of petroleum products. As a result of AMR’s reports, two dive surveys were conducted to assess marine and pollution hazards following which the USCG determined that pollution hazards met criteria to open the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for removal and cleaning of the vessel. On November 3, the Viking, a 120 ton derrick barge, was brought in from Anchorage to lift the vessel and move it onshore for cleaning. The City of Cordova and AMR are exploring options for final disposal of the vessel. PWSK continues to work with all parties to support successful resolution.
  • 21 Oct 2009 8:41 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    PWSK’s Harbor Master Working Group (PWSK HM) held its first annual meeting on October 20th in conjunction with the 2009 annual meeting of the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators. The PWSK HM group was formed in 2007 to facilitate communication and partnership among PWS harbor professionals. Members include Ed Barrett, Whittier HM, Diane Kinney, Director of Ports & Harbors, Valdez, Steve Waller, Valdez HM, Dale Muma, Cordova HM and Jennifer Gibbins, Soundkeeper/Executive Director, Prince William Soundkeeper. Participants at the PWSK HM annual meeting discussed a variety of issues ranging from marine debris to how to improve related harbor facilities and services.
  • 31 Aug 2009 8:45 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)
    Egg Island Marine Debris Clean Up PWSK members, volunteers and partners worked this summer to survey 25 acres of Egg Island and to remove 1200 pounds of plastic marine debris. The majority of trash was weather worn plastics, with plastic water bottles dominating “whole” finds. Motor lubricant containers, drink bottles, fishing floats, buoys and lines were also in abundance. The group estimated that it would take several months to clean the entire island. Project partner, Lindsay Butters, Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC), worked with a PWSSC high school oceanography class and PWSK project director Kirsti Jurica to survey debris deposits. Following the survey, PWSK’s volunteer clean up team spent two days walking the targeted deposition zone, documenting each piece of garbage and picking up all plastics but leaving glass, metals and large items difficult to extricate such as fuel drums, nets and steel navigational buoys. Once bagged and staged for pick-up, trash removal from the island was conducted via bowpicker by a team of volunteer commercial fishermen. All garbage collected has been saved for education and outreach purposes. Ultimately usable items will be saved and #1 and #2 plastics will be separated and recycled. Volunteers are discussing plans for a follow up project in 2010.
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Prince William Soundkeeper, PO Box 1368, Cordova, Alaska, 99574  tel: 907-424-5701  a 501c(3) non-profit organization.
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