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Cordova community engages with on-water oil spill response training


An oil response barge and Crowley tug at the spill response training.

Photo by Brooke Taylor

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council held its second annual fishing vessel oil spill response training tour in Cordova, Alaska, on May 1, 2017.  The Cordova community was invited to join the council from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., on a U.S. Coast Guard certified Stan Stephens Cruises catamaran to observe the training. Over 70 members of the public participated in the event, including 40 students from Cordova Junior/Senior High School.


Cordova student Madelyn Roemhildt stated about the event, “I like to see all these people from around different places in the Sound working to protect something that we all benefit from.”


The local fishermen participating in the training are contracted by the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, also known as SERVS, to respond in the event of a Prince William Sound tanker or Valdez Marine Terminal oil spill. SERVS is Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s oil spill response organization and coordinates annual oil spill response exercises in many Southcentral Alaska communities, including Cordova.


This council event helps keep communities informed on what oil spill prevention and response measures are in place in Prince William Sound, especially those led by their local fishermen. Cordova residents who are not involved in SERVS learned about oil spill response technology, tactics, and how this program helps Alyeska operate safely in Prince William Sound. Narrators from both the council and Alyeska were on board to help participants understand the training. We would like to thank our partners, Alyeska, Copper River Watershed Project, and Stan Stephens Cruises, for helping to support this event.


When asked why it was important for community members to learn about this program, Jessica Guilbes, sister of local Cordovan Jennifer Christensen, said, “Knowledge is power. If everyone knows, everyone can pull together and make cleanup more efficient, which in turn protects the environment, which protects the fish, which is their livelihood.”


Since the inception of SERVS after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the council has been highly supportive of local fishermen and mariners being trained annually with the best available technology to prepare for oil spills. This system helps ensure the most comprehensive response measures are in place for both open water and nearshore resources. A major lesson of the Exxon Valdez spill is that incorporating local mariners into the spill response system helps ensure a quick, efficient, and effective response. Cordova mariners have the most intimate knowledge of, and connection to, the waters near Cordova. Their involvement would help protect the most sensitive areas, such as hatcheries and spawning streams, from spilled oil.


The council’s first fishing vessel oil spill response training tour was held last year in Seward. Future tours are tentatively planned in other Southcentral Alaska communities. The council hopes that through such programs communities will understand the importance of oil spill prevention and having the most robust response strategies in place in the event of a spill. For more information on council projects and events, visit www.pwsrcac.org.


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