Kate Morse: Volunteer helps connect new generations with council’s mission

Kate Morse was nine years old and living in Pennsylvania when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in 1989. Although she didn’t directly experience the spill personally, she now works to bring the spill to life for a new generation. Morse has been the Program Director for Cordova’s Copper River Watershed Project since 2008. The organization is based in Cordova but does work throughout the Copper River watershed drainage area, which includes not only Cordova, but Glennallen, Kenny Lake, Mentasta Lake, and Paxson. Morse says the area is about the size of West Virginia, and the population of the region depends on healthy salmon runs. “It takes an entire watershed to support healthy salmon populations due to their complex life cycle from salt to fresh water and back to salt water again,” says Morse. “Our education programs really aim at getting people to see themselves as part of a watershed community, rather than just the stream in their backyard.” She says her organization tracks the council’s projects closely because the Trans-Alaska pipeline runs through the Copper River basin. “There are major river systems in the area,” Morse says. “The prospect of removing oil from a glacial river, how the oil would contaminate the entire water column and the glacial sediments, it would be impossible to clean it up.” “Prevention is definitely the key.” … Continue reading

Homer teens use technology to monitor Kachemak Bay for aquatic invasions

By Beth Trowbridge Executive Director for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies Four Homer high school students, a project leader, and lots of volunteers took part in the center’s “Creating Teen Leaders through Marine Technology and Research” program this summer, helping monitor for aquatic invasive species throughout Kachemak Bay. The students built an underwater remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, from a kit, which they used to explore the Homer and Seldovia harbors for aquatic invasive species. “We all had various skills that we could contribute but it took all of our expertise to organize, create, and improvise the structure,” said Landon Bunting, one of the students, describing the teamwork that developed between the students during the project. The students also used drones to help learn to navigate the underwater ROV. “Flying the drones and watching them be flown allowed for a better understanding of operating ROVs through a ‘fluid’ such as air or water,” added Bunting. “This experiment allowed each of us to learn from our mistakes and to learn the benefit of different types of remote operated vehicles.” … Continue reading

Council board meeting held in Valdez

The council’s board of directors recently held a board meeting in Valdez. On the agenda: An overview of the standards for the escort tugs, barges, and other equipment that is required for oil spill prevention and response in Prince William Sound A presentation about potential changes by the Alaska Regional Response Team to the Regional Stakeholder Committee, that allows stakeholders an opportunity to provide input in the event of an oil spill or pollution incident A presentation on how oil dispersants may impact the health of wildlife A presentation on recent changes to how dispersants are approved for use in Alaska An update on council outreach activities for the past year … Continue reading

Expedition reshapes Kodiak educator’s feelings about Prince William Sound

By Lindsey Cassidy Kodiak Middle School Teacher The name Prince William Sound causes ominous memories of my childhood in Kodiak to reverberate in my brain. For many years, the name was synonymous with dirty words such as “oil spill,” “toxins,” and “Exxon Valdez.” I was 5 years old and living in Kodiak on March 24, 1989. My memory does not know a time before the spill; the Exxon Valdez oil spill has always been an event my community suffered from and is still rebuilding from. During the summer of 1989, weeks after the spill, my family camped on neighboring Woody Island. When my younger sister and I returned from the tide pools, oil covered our clothes and hands. The oil did more than just soil clothing: it oiled our communities, ecosystems, lands, seas, and our lives. Kodiak fishermen and women had families to feed and bills to pay, but Exxon took even longer to respond effectively to the disaster in Kodiak than its initial delayed response to the spill in the Sound. I rode on my father’s shoulders during the protest march held in Kodiak shortly after the spill as a public demonstration against Exxon’s ineffective response to the disaster. My parents had saved for their dream house, and suddenly found themselves wondering if it would be just a dream. For me, these events were inseparably linked to the name Prince William Sound. … Continue reading