Community Corner: Citizen scientists help the Council monitor our region

By Lisa Matlock, Outreach Coordinator

Lisa Matlock

One of the Council’s federal mandates involves environmental monitoring. With a small staff and vast geographic area, this monitoring takes many forms. Monitoring is often done by staff or contractors, but some monitoring takes place thanks to the Council’s volunteers and interns – all citizen scientists.

Since 2014, the Council has had high school interns in the community of Cordova who help monitor for aquatic invasive species. Three interns, Sarah Hoepfner, Cadi Moffitt, and currently Cori Pegau, have volunteered to hang sturdy plastic “settling plates” in the Cordova harbor each spring, to be picked up in the fall. The interns check the organisms that accumulate on the plate for critters such as invasive tunicates and bryozoans.

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Community Corner: Local government is an important conduit for sharing information and concerns

Matlock and Council volunteers Wayne Donaldson and Trent Dodson at the Kodiak ComFish, an annual commercial fishing conference.

By Lisa Matlock
Outreach Coordinator

The Council’s staff and volunteers have visited with many Southcentral Alaska city councils and managers, tribal councils, borough assemblies, and state legislators this year. The upcoming marine services contract for tug and barge services in Prince William Sound will soon change, and this event alone has driven a great deal of interest in the Council’s mission from communities all over the Exxon Valdez oil spill region. There have also been oil spill planning policy changes that could affect communities, about which the Council has helped share information.

Local government continues to be one of the most important places for the Council to focus on issues that require public comment and scoping. Policy changes regarding community access to decision-makers, a new chemical dispersant use plan for Alaska that includes a preauthorized zone, and upcoming geographical changes to oil spill planning are just a few of the important policies that communities have had the chance to weigh in on this year. Often these issues are technical enough that local RCACs and governments may be a citizen’s ultimate voice for commenting on the issue. Local governments work regularly with permitting issues and zoning that lend themselves to commenting about similar policy changes the Council tackles in the oil spill prevention and response world.

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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.”

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Community Corner: A tour of the crown jewel of local oil spill response

By Lisa Matlock
Outreach Coordinator

Lisa Matlock, center, poses with the Seward High School students and teachers in the bow of the Glacier Explorer.
Lisa Matlock, center, poses with the Seward High School students and teachers in the bow of the Glacier Explorer. Scroll down for more photos.

I was a Homer resident for five years. Each spring I watched a fleet of fishing boats carrying noisy, funny-looking machines and pulling long orange and yellow lines around in circles near the Spit. I can remember asking, “What are they doing out there?” The answer was always, “Oh, that’s just SERVS training.” I never learned more than that until my first year with the council when I had the opportunity to observe that training personally.

For two days, I participated in classroom training with a group of fishermen and other mariners about spill safety, oil spill tactics, wildlife protection, and Geographic Response Strategies for sensitive areas. I learned about different types of hydraulic power packs, skimmers, and oil containment boom.

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