1) Click here to read PWS
2) Read the ADN article by ELIZABETH BLUEMINK
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Alyeska said Friday it instituted a temporary 10 percent
pay increase for the vessels in the program to help boost
Alyeska and the watchdog group plan to co-fund a
study to explore the pay rate and other factors blamed for the decline
"The point of the study is to get a clear
understanding of what will fix the problem," said Michelle Egan, an
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.
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 adn.com/contact/ebluemink or call 257-4317.