UPDATED JULY 1: Budget cuts threaten spill response equipment in remote Alaska communities


GOOD NEWS! We received word from Lt Nunez with Alaska’s District 17 of the Coast Guard that the Coast Guard headquarters has approved funds to keep the remote spill response equipment caches in Alaska through their next fiscal year (October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016).

Your letters of support helped! He specifically mentioned that the public’s letters of support for the caches really helped convince headquarters that Alaska has different needs than the rest of the country.

Original post:

In an effort to reduce spending, the U.S. Coast Guard is considering decommissioning caches of oil spill response equipment stationed around Alaska. The caches will be funded through the next fiscal year, however, long-term funding is not secure. The Coast Guard has invited the public to share their thoughts.

The equipment in these caches includes boom, skimmers, and other oil spill cleanup equipment. The caches are located in remote areas so local communities can mount an early response to pollution incidents. In the council’s region, equipment caches are located in Chenega Bay, Cordova, Valdez, Port Graham, Seward, Kodiak, Homer and Kenai. Equipment caches in locations outside the council’s region are equally important, and span from the Pribilof Islands all the way down to Ketchikan.

The remote location of many of the sites means the cost of maintaining this equipment can be high. However, in a letter to the Coast Guard voicing support to retain the caches, the council noted, “In many cases, these equipment caches may be the first and only line of defense to respond to and protect sensitive areas during the early hours of an oil spill.”

A second reason for considering removing the caches, is that several are co-located with oil spill response equipment owned by either private oil spill response organizations such as Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, or the State of Alaska. The council pointed out that most of the co-located equipment is listed in industry’s oil spill contingency plans, and the equipment would likely not be available for use on all spills. Allowing the equipment that is owned and maintained by the oil industry to be used for a non-crude oil spill would mean the industry could be out of compliance with regulations.

The council also noted that due to the remoteness of the sites, it could be days before equipment could be brought in from another location.

Public comments in support of the caches are needed.

The Coast Guard needs to receive support from interested stakeholders in order to justify the long-term funding required to maintain these equipment caches.

Readers can send their own letter of support. Comments are due to the U.S. Coast Guard by July 1, 2015 and should be directed to:

LT James Nunez:
17th Coast Guard District
P.O. Box 25517
Juneau, AK 99802-5517

This article ran in the May 2015 issue of The Observer newsletter. More information and a link to the council’s letter of support for the caches is available on this page: The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking public comment on the proposed decommissioning of their oil spill response equipment caches located throughout Alaska


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