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.

The change in Alyeska’s tug and barge services contractor, from Crowley Marine Services to Edison Chouest Offshore in 2018, has generated many questions from our local communities. Residents and their local representatives have wondered how the change might affect the safe transportation of oil through Prince William Sound, what kind of new equipment and personnel might be coming to the area, and even if there are new job prospects for residents due to the change. Council staff and volunteers have attempted to share what information we have at local meetings when possible, and we will continue to do so. Please let us know if you would like a community visit and presentation, as we are happy to oblige.

Many thanks go out to the city and borough clerks and councils, local government members, tribal councils, and others who have commented on oil spill issues and asked the Council to share information with them. Communities that are engaged with us on spill prevention and response issues and help provide local knowledge and perspective by writing public comment emails and letters from both individuals and communities, can have positive effects on oil spill prevention.

Mountain Village middle schooler receives oil spill award from council at state-wide science and engineering fair

Andrews and Lewis with Andrews’ project “Effects of Oil Spills.

For the past few years, the Council has recognized outstanding oil spill science fair projects at the Alaska Science & Engineering Fair. Youth come from all over the state to compete for a chance to represent Alaska internationally. This year, we recognized both a middle and high school level project. Middle school winner, Carter Andrews from Mountain Village, is pictured here with Information and Education Committee volunteer, Savannah Lewis. His project “Oil Spill Effects” tested the effects of motor oil on temperature and oxygen in saltwater to understand effects of oil spills on marine life.

High school student, Zoza Oberle of Juneau, was also recognized for her project “How Location Affects the Condition Index of Blue Mussels” which used Council-based protocols for sampling these filter feeders which were then tested for environmental effects on mussel health.

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