20th ANNIVERSARY of the EXXON VALDEZ OIL SPILL

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    Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council

    2009 Status Report

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    tale o contents

    Foreword by Craig Tillery

    The Spill, the Settlement, and the Restoration Plan 4

    The$900MillionCivilSettlementwithExxon 6

    UsesotheSettlement 8

    TheRestorationPlan 9

    The Status o Restoration 10

    ThePersistence,ToxicityandImpactoExxonValdezOil 10

    Long-termEectsoInitialExposure 14

    TheStatusoInjuredResourcesandServices 16

    Research, Monitoring, and Restoration 18

    UnderstandingtheMarineEcosystem 18

    UnderstandingtheParts:Fish,Wildlie,andOtherProjects 20

    DirectRestorationandInrastructureProjects 23

    PreservingandProvidingAccesstoInormation 25

    Habitat Protection Strategy 26

    HabitatProtectionSummarybyRegion 30

    TheFuture 30

    Summary 31

    OverviewMap 32

    The Eect on People 34

    Improvements to Spill Prevention and Response 36

    Cover photo: While the overall sea

    otter population in western Prince

    William Sound has recovered, local

    populations in areas that were

    heavily oiled by the spill have yet

    to recover.

    Back cover photo: The bald eaglewas the frst o the injured resources

    to be declared recovered. By 1996,

    the population o bald eagles in

    Prince William Sound was estimated

    at 6,000, matching the areas

    pre-spill population.

    Facing Page:

    Visitors today experience the spectacular scenery and

    wildlie o Prince William Sound and the North Gul

    o Alaska. While they will likely see little visible sign

    o the oil spill, the area has not ully recovered.

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    For certain events,

    you remember

    where you were

    when you heard

    the news. Like many

    Alaskans, I can remember

    how, where, and when I

    rst learned o the Exxon

    Valdez oil spill and I

    recall my rst reactions

    to the news: curiosity as

    to what this meant or

    Prince William Sound

    and interest in how the

    legal issues and inevitable

    litigation would play out.

    Mostly I had the reactions o a detached and curi-

    ous, but uninormed, observer. But within a short

    time I ound mysel in a helicopter landing in a cove

    on an island in Prince William Sound at the heart

    o the oil spill. I will never orget what I saw and

    heard and smelled. The juxtaposition o the idyllic

    beauty o the Sound, in which I had spent manyweeks kayaking in previous years, and the noisy,

    smelly, industrial scene beore me was overwhelm-

    ing. I remember two reactions at that time: sadness

    and anger. There was never again detachment or

    idle curiosity.

    Over the last 20 years, we have made signicant

    progress in restoration o areas impacted by the spill:

    permanently protecting crucial habitat; increasing

    our knowledge o the marine ecosystem; and

    developing new tools or better management o

    these vital resources. Visitors to Prince William

    Sound and the North Gul Coast o Alaska todayagain experience spectacular scenery and abundant

    wildlie and see little evidence o the spill. Yet the

    area has not ully recovered. In some areas, Exxon

    Valdez oil still remains and is toxic. Some injured

    species have yet to recover to pre-spill levels. This

    long-term damage was not expected at the time o

    the spill and was only just starting to be recognized

    in 1999, at the 10th Anniversary.

    At that time, the majority o species injured by

    the spill were still struggling with low numbers,

    such as the depressed herring populations, but it

    was expected that the ecosystem would recover

    naturally over time. Now, in 2009, as we reach the

    end o the second decade, many o these areas and

    species o concern remain. As we learn more, the

    picture o recovery is more complicated than was

    rst appreciated.

    It is unortunate that it takes a disaster o this

    magnitude to shake us rom our complacency and

    make us see how greatly nature has blessed us here

    in Alaska and elsewhere in our great country, and

    to understand how easily and quickly humans can

    despoil it. Such an environmental disaster makes us

    realize how much we depend on our natural world

    and how much harm reckless acts can infict on our

    lives and the lives o our amilies. It is important

    that we remember and learn rom such events. It is

    in that spirit that we present this 20th Anniversary

    Status Report.

    Unlike prior annual reports, which have ocusedon the details o the Trustee Councils work in the

    preceding year, this 20th Anniversary Status Report

    seeks to present a broader overview o the spill, the

    subsequent settlement, the Restoration Plan and

    the Trustee Councils work in research, monitoring,

    restoration, and habitat protection. It also discusses

    the eect o the spill on human communities and

    the improvements to spill prevention and response

    that have taken place since the spill.

    Craig Tillery

    Deputy Attorney GeneralAlaska Department o Law

    FOREwORd

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    Craig Tillery inspects

    a boulder-sized piece

    o Bligh Ree caught

    in the torn hull o the

    Exxon Valdeztanker.

    Facing Page

    The massive cleanup eort mobilized more

    than 10,000 people, 1,000 vehicles, and 100

    airplanes into an environment that prior to

    the spill was pristine and largely uninhabited

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    Alaska NorthSlope crude

    oil is pro-

    duced along

    the northern coast o

    Alaska in various elds

    such as Prudhoe Bay

    and Kuparuk. The oil

    is a heavy crude that is

    highly toxic and slow

    to disperse when re-

    leased into the environ-

    ment. North Slope crude oil is gathered in PrudhoeBay and sent 800 miles through the Trans-Alaska

    Pipeline to the Alyeska Marine Terminal located

    in Valdez, Alaska. From there the oil is loaded on

    tankers and shipped south through Prince William

    Sound. Most o the oil ends up in Washington,

    Caliornia, or Texas, where it is rened and distrib-

    uted or use. For the rst 12 years o operation this

    systemwhile not without problemsavoided

    disaster. To a large extent, the shippers o the oil,

    citizens in the nearby communities, and government

    regulators grew complacent. But in the early morn-

    ing hours o March 24, 1989, this complacencywas shattered.

    The SpillEarly in the morning on Good Friday, March 24,

    1989, the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Ree in Prince

    William Sound. The grounding ripped the bottom

    o the single-hulled vessel, resulting in the ruptureo 11 o the vessels crude oil tanks and the release

    o nearly 11 million gallons o crude oil into the

    environment. It was, and still is, the largest oil spill

    in United States waters.

    For almost three days ollowing the spill, the

    weather in the Sound was unusually quiet. Howev-

    er, Alyeska Pipeline Company, the initial responder

    under the terms o the Prince William Sound oil

    spill contingency plan, was not ready and ew

    pieces o equipment were in the area in a timely

    manner. By the evening o March 24 only two

    skimmers, both o which were ull at the time,were motoring aimlessly around the growing oil

    slick. There was little or no containment boom

    deployed. A test burn was conducted, which

    worked to some extent, but the water content o

    the oily mousse soon made burning impractical or

    impossible. Dispersants were a primary response

    tool and were tested with somewhat inconclusive

    results, but neither Exxon Corporation nor

    Alyeska had sucient dispersant or the equipment

    to adequately deploy it.

    On the evening o March 26, a severe winter

    storm blew into the Sound. The oil slick went roma relatively compact mass to a widely dispersed

    collection o patches and streaks, and response

    vessels were orced to run or shelter in the ace o

    the storm. The oil soon hit the beaches in hundreds

    o places, overwhelming any eorts to stop it, with

    a ew notable exceptions such as in Sawmill Bay.

    THE SPILL,

    THE SETTLEMENT,

    ANd THE

    RESTORATION PLAN

    An Exxon Valdezoilslick is carried by the

    ocean current.

    4

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    Over the next ve-and-a-hal months the

    cleanup operations grew exponentially, ultimately

    becoming the largest private project in Alaska

    since construction o the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. At

    one point more than 11,000 people were working

    on cleanup. According to Exxon Corporations

    count, more than one thousand miles o beach weretreated that summer. Additional cleanup continued

    or the next three summers through 1992.

    Damage AssessmentAssessing the extent o the environmental dam-

    age caused by the spill was extremely dicult

    or a number o reasons: Most importantly, there

    was little baseline inormation about the natural

    resources in the spill area. Even where data existed,

    such as with commercially harvested salmon runs

    in the area, the

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