Native Village of Eyak Receives $40 Million Grant to Construct Oil Spill Response Facility
US Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young welcomed a $40,199,275 grant awarded to the Native Village of Eyak from the US Department of Transportation (DOT). This funding, made available under the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program, will be used for the construction of a dock and small port that will serve as the proposed Shepard Point Marine Tribal Transportation (MTT) & Oil Spill Response (OSR) Facility.
This facility will serve as a multi-modal transportation and oil spill emergency response center and will provide a central location for the tribal members and members of the broader community to develop marine support services. This has been a long-time priority for the Native Village of Eyak following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, which cause significant damage to the social, cultural, and economic interests of the tribe.
“The Exxon Valdez oil spill serves as an enduring reminder of how important it is to have rapid and robust response capabilities in place to prevent any future spill from becoming an ecological disaster,” says Sullivan.
“The DOT grant funding announced, coupled with over $12 million in matching funds, lays the groundwork for a significant new facility at Shepard Point to help protect the way of life of the Eyak people—who’ve inhabited this area for thousands of years — and the vital fishing, energy, and tourism industries that employ thousands of Alaskans throughout Prince William Sound and the Copper River Delta.”
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“The Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred more than thirty years ago in Prince William Sound impacted thousands of miles of coastline and surrounding communities. It also helped shape America’s oil spill response methods,” says Murkowski.
“Having dedicated infrastructure for responding to oil spills and related events is essential to protecting our environment. The construction of the Shepard Point Marine Tribal Transportation & Oil Spill Response Facility will help ensure that the Native Village of Eyak and the surrounding region have the tools and data necessary to respond,” she continues.
“This funding is welcome news, not only for the Native Village of Eyak, but for the broader community in Cordova and the surrounding areas. An Oil Spill Response Facility has been one of my long-time priorities, and I have worked closely with tribal leaders to help secure funding for this important project,” says Young.
“Over the holidays, I spoke personally with former Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, and passionately advocated on behalf of this critical project. The Exxon Valdez oil spill devastated members of the community, and we have learned many lessons in its wake. I am confident that once constructed, the Shepard Point Marine Tribal Transportation & Oil Spill Response Facility will serve a critical role in responding to potential tanker disasters, and mitigating potential impacts,” he says.
According to the Native Village of Eyak Tribal Council, “NVE believes it is right and fitting that a tribe builds this facility to protect resources in our region, a role that the Eyak people have played for thousands of years. This is the culmination of a long and often inflexible process. The unfailing and relentless pursuit by past and current leaders with the Native Village of Eyak leadership to keep this project alive over three decades has been critical to the success. This is a significant step forward, but we are not at the end yet. Current NVE leadership will now focus on a responsible and solid strategy to move Shepard Point forward.”
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Meeting in the Middle
In January, when the Biden administration announced its ban on the future sale of oil and gas leases on federal land, the news understandably ruffled the collective feathers of Alaska’s oil and gas industry.