Vessel construction, planning underway for Crowley to Edison Chouest transition

Council conducting independent review of vessel designs

This Alyeska chart compares some of the capabilities and specifications of the new vessels to the current fleet. The council is independently analyzing the vessels’ design specifications. Image courtesy of Alyeska.

This Alyeska chart compares some of the capabilities and specifications of the new vessels to the current fleet. The council is independently analyzing the vessels’ design specifications. Image courtesy of Alyeska. (CLICK PHOTO FOR LARGER IMAGE.)

By July of 2018, Edison Chouest Offshore, or ECO, of Louisiana will be the marine services contractor for oil tankers and the terminal in Prince William Sound. Until then, Alyeska and ECO will be working with Crowley Maritime, the contractor who currently provides those services, on a smooth transition between the two contractors. These services include escort tugs, general purpose tugs, oil recovery storage barges and associated personnel, all of which are key oil spill prevention and response assets for Prince William Sound. For instance, two state-of-the-art escort tugs accompany every laden tanker that leaves Port Valdez. One tug is tethered through the confined waterway called the Valdez Narrows, and one tug stands by at Hinchinbrook Entrance until the tanker is 17 miles into the Gulf of Alaska. The primary responsibility of these escort tugs is to rescue or “save” a tanker that may experience problems and prevent oil from spilling, and initiate response efforts should these prevention measures fail. Continue reading

Smithsonian partners with council to search for marine invasive species

Citizen scientists, the Prince William Sound College, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the council partner for invasive species event in Prince William Sound

Linda McCann
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

An opalescent nudibranch is a native species common in Prince William Sound. This one was found during the September bioblitz. Photo by Nelli Vanderburg.

An opalescent nudibranch is a native species common in Prince William Sound. This one was found during the September bioblitz.

A crew of marine biologists ventured to Prince William Sound this September for the third Smithsonian-led “bioblitz” in Alaska, this time in Valdez. During a bioblitz, volunteer citizen scientists team up with professional scientists to search for invasive marine invertebrates. This year, the Smithsonian partnered with the council and Prince William Sound College for a week of scientific sampling.

Three months before the bioblitz, council staff placed “settlement plates,” sheets of sanded PVC that the invertebrates attach to over time. During the bioblitz, volunteers and staff collected the plates, towed plankton nets, set crab traps, and went scuba diving, to look for various nonnative species.

The study helped establish critical baseline data for future research, invasive species management, and conservation initiatives. Fortunately, no new non-native species were found during the bioblitz or the scientific sampling.

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Tom Kuckertz: Retired staff member still contributes engineering expertise to council’s mission

Tom and Sue Kuckertz

The council has benefited from Chicago-born Tom Kuckertz’ broad experience in engineering for 16 years and counting. After his retirement from the council in 2014, Kuckertz continued on as a volunteer for the committee he worked with most closely, the Terminal Operations and Environmental Monitoring Committee.

A young Kuckertz earned degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois and the University of Idaho, followed by two years in the U.S. Army as a Signal Corps officer, where he was involved in the design and implementation of large communications systems.

“Basically, it involved how to move information from one place to another, and in most cases, deny access to adversaries,” explained Kuckertz.

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Community Corner: Partnerships help involve the next generation in the council’s mission

By Lisa Matlock
Outreach Coordinator

Council receiving partnership award from Alaska Geographic, photo courtesy of Alaska Geographic - color fixSince 2009, the council has partnered with the Chugach Children’s Forest to help youth from the Exxon Valdez oil spill region connect to Prince William Sound directly through unique outdoor experiences. The council has co-sponsored multiple expeditions in which students from Cordova to Kodiak ply the waters of Prince William Sound by kayak, charter vessel, and ferry. The wonders of the Sound, its wildlife, its communities, and its beauty have touched them all, and along the way these youth have learned how the Exxon Valdez oil spill affected this special place and how they can be part of preventing future spills.

The Chugach Children’s Forest, itself a partnership between the Chugach National Forest and the non-profit organization, Alaska Geographic, introduces diverse, young Alaskans to their wild backyard. One of the Children’s Forest’s goals is to “address the critical challenges of people’s growing disconnect from nature paired with mounting impacts on our natural world” and to “bring together communities, educators, land management agencies, and environmental and social non-profits to offer a wide range of innovative programs.” Continue reading