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Then and Now – 25 years of citizen involvement following the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Then and Now - 25 years of citizen involvement following the Exxon Valdez oil spill - cover

Twenty-six years ago today, the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, spilling an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. While the immediate cause of the spill lies with the captain and crew, complacency on the part of the oil industry, regulators, and the public played a part in the disaster.

Many improvements have been made since 1989. Regulators, the oil industry, and citizens have all worked together to improve the prevention and response system in the Sound. Among many other improvements:

  • Tankers are all double-hulled
  • Loaded tankers are all escorted by two powerful tugs with response equipment on board
  • Local fishermen are contracted and trained to help respond to an oil spill
  • Oil spill contingency plans containing details on how to prevent and respond to an oil spill are now mandatory

Despite improvements, constant vigilance is still needed to prevent a return of the complacency that allowed the Exxon Valdez spill to happen.

Last year, the council issued the report “Then and Now – 25 years of citizen involvement following the Exxon Valdez oil spill” to document these improvements and help identify areas where work is still needed. The report contains 27 pages of improvements in the oil transportation in Prince William Sound, remaining concerns, as well as ways the council is planning for the future.

Download the full report:


Long term environmental monitoring proposals requested



The council is inviting proposals to perform its Long Term Environmental Monitoring Project for the fiscal year of 2016, beginning July 1, 2015.

In 1993, the council initiated long-term environmental monitoring at nine sites in Prince William Sound, Port Valdez, and the Gulf of Alaska. The area has been monitored since that time for presence of hydrocarbons in the water column and sediment.

Samples of blue mussel tissue are collected during the summer months (July or August), to determine the existing hydrocarbon concentrations and characteristics. Additionally, deep sediments are sampled and analyzed in two sites in Port Valdez.

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First known freshwater springs found beneath the face of Columbia Glacier

Researchers working with the council have found what are believed to be the first documented freshwater springs found at the base of a tidewater glacier in Alaska.

Columbia Glacier

Columbia Glacier

This investigation was conducted by the Prince William Sound Science Center in support of ongoing council research focused on Columbia Glacier. Columbia Glacier has historically contributed to several maritime accidents related to the transportation of crude oil through Prince William Sound. The Glacier has been retreating rapidly from its terminal moraine near Heather Island since the early 1980s. Columbia Glacier’s main face is some 11 miles from Heather Island now. Icebergs produced by the glacier routinely cross into marine traffic lanes, posing a risk to crude oil tankers and their support vessels.

“The survey found several small freshwater springs in the bottom of the bay – places where fresh, clear water was seeping out of the bottom and mixing with the cloudier, saltier water of the bay, “ said Dr. Robert Campbell, researcher for the Prince William Sound Science Center.

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