Prince William SOUNDKEEPER®

Clean Water   Healthy Fisheries   Strong Communities





Soundkeeper's Log

Updates, Observations & Commentary
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  • 10 Nov 2016 1:19 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)


    A Meet & Greet event was held in Cordova on Nov. 5, during which attendees were asked about PWSKeeper projects and areas of focus. We also discussed strategies to keep the public informed and of how to most effectively address priority issues with no staff and a limited budget.  

    Keeping our Mission Statement always in mind, "Grass roots advocacy for preserving water quality in Prince William Sound Alaska for all users."  is the first step of focusing effort and creating action strategies. Collaborating with like-minded organizations and individuals in order to maximize impact, is the 2nd.  

    Fundraising is a huge issue right now for PWSoundkeeper.  We are afloat but heading for the shoals.  Funding for south central Alaska environmental organizations has been increasingly drying up, and the availability of future funding looking even more bleak.  As a grass-roots citizen advocacy organization our funding resource choices are even more limited as we do not want to be constrained by taking money from businesses or government that might want to limit our ability to comment and act upon their decisions.  

    Prince William Soundkeeper is here for you, but without your support, we won't be for much longer.  Please consider giving a tax deductible donation today.  

  • 12 Jul 2016 5:10 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    As the Execuitive Director of an environmental non-profit I spend a majority of my time asking for financial support for programs, and to keep the basic bills paid.  This past month brought in some much needed support.  

    Thank you to our new friends, and to our old friends who continue to stand by PWSK and who went above and beyond the call with their generosity.

    Discovery Voyages

    City of Cordova

    The Reluctant Fisherman

    The New-Land Foundation

    And thank you to the new members who've joined us this year.  Effective citizen advocacy starts with your support!





  • 09 Feb 2016 8:17 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    I have been able to go for a jog along Orca Inlet several times over the past few months without having to worry about trashing myself on ice.  40 degrees in February?  This is the new norm? 

    I haven’t been a runner for long.  So It’s not about how hard or how fast I can run, it’s more about maintaining and sustaining.   I pant down the road getting my recommended allowance of heart, lung and butt workout, and absorb the flow of water and shore moving alongside of me.   The merganzers and cormorants ride the outflowing tide, diving and reappearing with a head shake and a murmur.  I note the occasional matted tumble of black and white feathers and bones left on rocky boulders and underneath overhanging spruce limbs.  The reminder that one’s famine, the common murre die off that has been occurring all along the North Pacific Coast is another’s boom; a feast for bald eagles, ravens and other scavengers partaking of the starved animals and floating carcasses found.  The warmth that is allowing my run in February is more than likely fueling the ecosystem change that is stressing these birds.

    Orca Lodge is at the end of the road.  If certain interests have their way, there will be an extension to this road going past the lodge, out to Shephard Point.  The proposed purpose is to put a deep water dock to house oil spill/emergency response gear.  The premise sounds good, but on further scrutiny, we find that building miles of road along this steep, avalanche prone coastline, away from town, potentially disturbing estuary and intertidal areas, is not a logical and economical endeavor when other choices and existing facilities already exist closer to town.

    Turning back up the road, my view now is down the long Inlet to the mountainous horizon opening on the edge of the pristine Copper River Delta.  The proposed Chugach National Forest management revision plan would remove so many existing protections.  As more visitors pour into the Sound through Whittier and Seward, western PWS is fast losing the wilderness quality the FS was purporting to be promoting.  The proposed plan would open much of the Sound to mining, timber removal, and motorized vehicle access.  It would remove important areas from the current wilderness protections. 

    Public comment is open until Feb 19, and we need your words.

    Port Gravina is being developed for an open pit gravel mine.  The Forest Service is bowing to pressure from industry and ignoring their responsibility to protect our precious Sound from these destructive activities.   Chugach Alaska Corp. is exercising their right to develop their subsurface resources; resources that happen to be underneath Exxon Valdez Oil Spill conservation easement protected surface areas.  The FS won’t ask for a full Environmental Impact Assessment to be performed, even though the proposed activity will undoubtedly have significant impacts.   The Chugach NF and the EVOS Trustee Council must reconcile the EVOS Restoration plan with the National Forest mandates; they need to secure subsurface rights on EVOS protected lands, and disallow any further mining or timber extraction from PWS.

    PWS has many, many more challenges besides these to advocate and address.  The challenges seem overwhelming sometimes.  But our job needs to be done, no matter how impossible it seems, how much it makes us sweat, or our heart pound.  Like running down this road, gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other and make it as far as we can, as long as we can.


  • 08 Dec 2015 1:39 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    The past few weeks I've been up to my ears in legalese trying to wrap my head around the fact that Governor Walker allowed Attorney General Richards to drop the 2006 request for payment under the EVOS Reopener Clause.  The State representatives stated that since the EVOS Trustee Council has listed sea ducks and sea otters as recovered, then the whole Sound is recovered, and we should move on.  As the former mayor of Valdez, Gov. Walker must certainly know better than that.

    To add insult to this 26+ year injury, this decision was made without allowing for any public comment, tribal consultation or scientific research submission.  

    The case is NOT closed. And PWSK is working to bring the public's attention to what we consider the biggest environmental justice issue in Alaska today.  We have until June 2016 to get the Gov to change his mind and act on behalf of the public trust, not the Corporation's bottom line.  

    Towards that end we've asked spill affected communities, Tribes and citizens to submit Resolutions and comments to the Governor asking for a chance to be heard and a reversal of the decision.  So far the City of Cordova, the Alutiiq Village of Old Harbor, and the Chugach Regional Resources Commission (representing the 7 PWS Tribes) have done so.  

    As we come into the New Year we will have 5 months to increase pressure and do what is right for the Sound, and the people who love and depend upon her resources.



  • 05 Nov 2015 2:27 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    This week saw a bit a progress on bringing to the Nation's attention the problem with the government walking away from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Re-Opener Claim.  

    Professor Rick Steiner, a long-time advocate on behalf of Prince William Sound regarding, acting as a private citizen, has petitioned the court regarding its lack of allowing public comment and consultation, and to reconsider the narrowly defined interpretation of the Restoration Plan as outlined under the Re-Opener provision.  (See our campaign page to read full petition - EVOS Petition 11/5/15)

    Our efforts are starting to be heard by a wider audience with the article appearing in Seafood News.com:  http://seafoodnews.com/Story/997212/Advocates-Seek-11th-Hour-Reversal-On-Exxon-Valdez-Reopener-Decision

    We have less than a year to urge the Government to fulfill their civic responsibility and fully respond to this issue.  July 2016 is our deadline for action.  




  • 08 Sep 2015 1:07 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council is holding a meeting Thursday, Sept. 17 in Kodiak during which they will consider a Resolution urging the State to compel ExxonMobil to honor the application for $92 million dollars the State applied for in 2006 to address the Re-Opener Clause for Unanticipated and Unknown Damages. 

    Public testimony will be taken at 9:00 on Thursday, Sept. 2.  Please attend and let the PWSRCAC hear from you about the longest running environmental litigation in history. 

    Information on the meeting and wording of the Resolution can be found here:  http://www.pwsrcac.org/announcements/board-of-directors-to-meet-in-kodiak/#more-7673

    Read more about the EVOS Re-Opener Clause here: http://www.pwsoundkeeper.org/page-646434

  • 19 Aug 2015 5:53 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    Flying home over the western Sound from Anchorage last week on a crystal clear day, the mountain peaks looked strangely bare, even for this time of the year, the effects of 2 low snow winters, and a hot summer.  I watched the fishing fleet working below, scattered like colored pins on a map along shorelines and bays, trailing bright lines across the waves.  Large processors rafted with tenders, transferring the salmon harvest into holds.  The Sound’s sustainable natural resource economy is pumping along. 

    And so is the natural resource extraction industry.  Chugach Alaska Corporation (CAC) is actively pursuing a gravel mine in one of the last undeveloped areas in eastern Prince William Sound, Port Gravina, in Comfort/Secret Cove.  The development of EVOS surface protected areas, a legal loophole stemming from the ’91 settlement, is precedent setting, it’s the first time a subsurface owner has exercised their right to access the subsurface estate.  The EVOS Trustee Council has been attempting to correct this problem by working to secure these subsurface holdings.  Unfortunately, they have not done enough to be able to stop this development.  Nor does the Forest Service seem prepared to deal with the issue adequately. 

    Preparation work by CAC has already begun on the site in Port Gravina.  Sonar from blasting, noise and light pollution from the construction camp, large vessels and degraded water runoff are the least of the issues will stem from this proposed action.

    The Bering River Coal Fields with its estimated 35 million tons of recoverable coal sit under the eastern portion of the Copper River Watershed.  Bering River coal patent and development rights for the Kushtaka Mountain and Cunningham Ridge regions of the coal field are owned by the Korean Alaska Development Corporation (KADCO).  Chugach Alaska Corporation (CAC) retained subsurface coal rights to an anthracite coal deposit in the Carbon Mountain region, and all surface, timber and water rights over 73,000 acres within the Chugach National Forest.  Recently CAC has put its subsurface coal rights on the international m arket. 

    The potential for these areas to be developed – think mountain top removal strip mining – would be disastrous for the Copper River and Prince William Sound watershed, and for the world as a whole with the return of coal burning emissions into the atmosphere.

    The EVOS Re-Opener Clause Citizen Action & Advocacy Campaign is getting ready to be launched.  PWSK is holding a Strategic Planning meeting in September with collaborating parties in anticipation of government action (or non) in regards the 2006 application for the Re-Opener Clause provided for in the ’91 Baker vs Exxon settlement.  PWSK has asked the Court to allow Professor Rick Steiner to represent us in “Friend of the Court” testimony in the ongoing litigation.

    On my afternoon beach walk, accompanied by my dog and the sound of jitney’s working in the bay, I pick up the scattered bits of plastic trash and busted line washed in at the tide line.  I keep an eye out for sea stars with any signs of sea star wasting disease.  PWSK member Dave Janka of the Auklet documented the disease off of Green Island recently.  It seems that the warming waters from the North Pacific Blob may have more in store for PWS ecology before the year is out.

  • 15 May 2015 2:32 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    The 1991 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill settlement agreement included a provision entitled Re-Opener for Unknown Injury that allowed the state and federal governments to submit a claim for up to $100 million for damages not foreseen at the time of settlement.  The federal government stood neutral, and after a sustained effort to prod the state by fishermen, community members and advocacy groups including Prince William Soundkeeper (PWSK), the State applied for the provision in 2006.  The State Attorney General under Gov. Murkowski found that “After extensive review, it is clear that populations and habitat within the spill area have suffered substantial and unanticipated injuries that are attributable to the Exxon Valdez oil spill”, and the State presented jointly with the U.S. Government to ExxonMobil a demand for payment of $92,240,982.  Since then, the Palin and Parnell Administrations have chosen not to pursue the issue.

    Resolutions to the Alaska State Legislature have been submitted in both 2014 and the spring 2015 sessions urging the State to compel ExxonMobil to pay what they legally owe the State and the Nation. The State of Alaska has declined to come to any decision.  

    The Legislature stated they will make their decision during the September 2015 session.  The statute of limitations on this ruling runs out in 2016. This summer will be the primary time to bring this issue to the forefront of people’s attention, and to convince the State and Federal government that it is in all of our best interest’s to enforce this ruling.  

    If the State and Federal government refuse to carry out their legal obligation ExxonMobil walks away.  This will set a horrible legal precedent, and will deny the still needed funding for damaged oil spill resource restoration and oil spill impact research.  Considering the current attitude of the Alaska Legislature, PWSK has small hope that they will act on the citizen's behalf unless pressured to do so.  

    PWSK will be launching a Citizen Advocacy and Action Campaign to address this issue and compel the Government to do its duty.  Your support in this endeavor is needed.  Please join us.

  • 10 Mar 2015 7:11 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

    The Norcross Wildlife Foundation is responsible for the sharp new look and feel of our web page with funding support for media development.  (http://www.norcrossws.org.) This was a task we've been wanting to do for some time!  

    Thank you, Norcross Wildlife Foundation!

  • 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.

     

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