Peer listening program updated for COVID-19

Image of COVID 19 virus with the caption: Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (PWSRCAC) is a non-profit corporation created after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill to provide a voice for citizens in decisions that impact the safe storage and transportation of oil at the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers.
The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (PWSRCAC) is a non-profit corporation created after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill to provide a voice for citizens in decisions that impact the safe storage and transportation of oil at the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers.

By Betsi Oliver, Outreach Coordinator

We believe that the coronavirus pandemic has a lot in common with an oil spill in terms of the impact on the mental health of the community. Many of the elements that make an oil spill so challenging also apply to the current COVID-19 crisis, such as the high level of uncertainty, ambiguity, and blame.

Although the Council is not involved with response for the current crisis, we want to make relevant resources known and available.

The Council assisted in developing extensive community support resources in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. These resources were then shared, used, and updated during the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill. 

If we were dealing with an oil spill emergency, the Council would most likely be out front offering educational programs to help mitigate the stress and degradation of mental health in our communities. In the COVID-19 public health emergency, other organizations are better suited to help. We hope this information is useful to you. 

What is peer listening?

Research shows that many of the people who are affected by disasters are reluctant to use traditional mental health services. One alternative treatment that has been found to be particularly effective is peer counseling. Through special training in listening skills, anger management, depression, and other family problems, peer listeners have a unique opportunity to assist their family and friends with ongoing concerns. Peer listeners may work with local church or community groups as a resource for persons in need. Or, they may work directly with mental health agencies as additional sources of support. Finally, they may be available informally to family and friends, as someone who will listen and may be able to offer some direction.

Updated resources 

Training for peer listeners: The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium has released a Peer Listener Training updated for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Training video modules and a supporting manual  

Coping With Technological Disasters: One finding after the Exxon Valdez spill is that technological, or man-made, disasters have a more toxic and long-lasting impact on communities than natural disasters. Different support for recovery is needed. The current pandemic shares many similarities with a technological disaster in terms of the impact on individuals and communities. Resources to help communities, including our award-winning guidebook, can be found in our Coping With Technological Disasters materials.

Funds available for educational projects related to our mission

The Council works to educate Exxon Valdez region youth about the environmentally safe operation of the Alyeska terminal and associated tankers. Working with area youth is vital to fight complacency that can arise if new generations of citizens are not continually reminded of the need for ongoing oil spill prevention.

To support this effort, the Council is inviting proposals for facilitating learning experiences with Exxon Valdez oil spill region youth.

Read moreFunds available for educational projects related to our mission

Council announces election of Board officers

Photo of Robert Archibald

The Council held its annual Board meeting by videoconference, on May 7-8, 2020.  Among other business, the Board convened to elect officers who will serve from May 2020 to May 2021. All current officers were re-elected into the same positions they held for the previous year.

The elected executive committee is comprised of:

  • President: Robert Archibald, representing the City of Homer
  • Vice President: Amanda Bauer, representing the City of Valdez
  • Treasurer: Wayne Donaldson, representing the City of Kodiak
  • Secretary: Bob Shavelson, representing the Oil Spill Region Environmental Coalition
  • Three Members-at-Large: 
    • Ben Cutrell, representing Chugach Alaska Corporation
    • Thane Miller, representing Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation
    • Rebecca Skinner, representing the Kodiak Island Borough

The Council is very happy to have the support of its many volunteers from all over the Exxon Valdez oil spill region.  The new executive committee is an excellent representation of the Council.

Executive Committee:

Photo of Robert Archibald
Robert ArchibaldCity of HomerPresident
Amanda BauerCity of ValdezVice-President
Photo of Bob Shavelson
Bob ShavelsonOil Spill Region Environmental Coalition (OSREC)Secretary
Photo of Wayne Donaldson
Wayne DonaldsonCity of KodiakTreasurer
Ben Cutrell
Ben CutrellChugach Alaska CorporationMember-at-large
Photo of Thane Miller
Thane MillerPrince William Sound Aquaculture CorporationMember-at-large
Photo of Rebecca Skinner
Rebecca SkinnerKodiak Island BoroughMember-at-large

News release (PDF): Prince William Sound RCAC announces election of board officers

Council’s annual board meeting will be virtual, May 7-8

Tanker in Prince William Sound

The Council will hold a virtual board meeting, via video and teleconference, on Thursday and Friday, May 7-8, 2020. Due to coronavirus concerns, no in-person attendance will be permitted.

Those interested in attending can do so by teleconference (1-888-788-0099, meeting ID: 216 315 997) or video conference. Visual presentations given during the meeting can be streamed live through the videoconference or accessed by download:

The tentative schedule for the Thursday session is from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. On Friday, the meeting is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public through the video/teleconference system, except for executive sessions. Public comments are scheduled to be taken on Thursday starting at 9 a.m.

The Council will be conducting regular business during the meeting, including seating of established directors and committee members and election of new board officers. Other topics included on the agenda are:

  • An activity report by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company on the Valdez Marine Terminal and Ship Escort/Response Vessel System operations, including impacts to operations from COVID-19 and an update on the current spill situation at the terminal.
  • A report on the annual analytical summary and interpretation of the passive sampling device, mussel, and sediment samples taken each summer for the Long-Term Environmental Monitoring Program.
  • A report on best available technology for towline deployment between oil tankers operating in Prince William Sound and rescue tugboats.
  • A report from the Council’s legislative monitors and staff on political developments and prospects coming out of Washington, D.C. and Juneau.

A second, special board meeting is planned for May 21, from 9 to 11:30 a.m., to discuss and approve the Council budget for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2020.

The meeting agenda provided is subject to change before or during the meeting. Council board meetings are routinely recorded and may be disseminated to the public by the Council or by the news media. 

Both Council offices (Anchorage and Valdez) are currently closed as a safety precaution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the State of Alaska and the City of Anchorage have recently made announcements about their plans to start reopening businesses soon, the Council does not yet plan to reopen either office. As state and city plans continue to progress, the Council will take a very cautious approach to reopening and will send out notifications about when and how the Council offices will do so.

The health and safety of Council staff and volunteers are our top priority and will drive decisions as the situation evolves and more information becomes available.

More information: Updates on COVID-19 impacts to Council activities.

News release (PDF)

Prince William Sound RCAC Annual Board Meeting Will Be Virtual, May 7-8 (0.2 MB)

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