Draft legacy of An Oil Spill – 20 Years After the Exxon Valdez Table of Contents Foreword The Spill, The Settlement, and The Restoration Plan The status of Restoration The Persistence, Toxicity

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Remote Cameras Tested and In Use
The use of remote video camera technology has proved to be a cost-effective way to monitor fish and wildlife in the field, as well as a strong tool for public education. The Trustee Council sponsored two pilot programs using remote video cameras, one to count salmon in streams and one to monitor seabirds in the Barren Islands. The seabird project included live video feeds to the Pratt Museum in Homer, where specialists monitored common murres and helped educate visitors about seabird and forage-fish ecology. 
Remote video escapement recorders were deployed in 1999 to count sockeye salmon on Delight Creek, East Nuka Bay; and in 2000 to count chum and pink salmon on Port Dick Creek, Port Dick Bay (outer coast of the Kenai Peninsula). The camera used time-lapse video which allowed technicians to review 1,100 hours of escapement information in approximately 42 hours. The camera count documented 85-87% of the salmon counted at a weir, demonstrating it could be an accurate and cost-effective alternative to aerial surveys and weirs. Researchers have continued to improve upon the original design and today remote-video escapement recorders are being used by state and federal agencies to monitor salmon escapement at various locations throughout Alaska, the continental United States, and Canada.
Shift in Forage Fish Documented 
In 1994, Trustee Council-funded researchers studied a 40-year dataset compiled from trawl surveys to analyze the changing makeup of the north Gulf ecosystem. By meshing datasets from two different agencies, researchers identified a major shift in the types of prey available for many common predators. High-fat species such as capelin, sand lance, and eulachon declined sharply around 1978-80, while more lean fish such as flounder, pollock, and cod increased dramatically during this same period. Coincidentally, these studies were concurrent with measurements of atmospheric change being conducted by other scientists. This allowed the researchers to determine that this biological shift in the forage base coincided with a shift in atmospheric pressure and a two-degree Centigrade increase in the water temperature. This study documented an ecosystem-level effect from the “regime shift” in temperature and other factors, and linked it to the North Pacific Oscillation. While two degrees may not seem like very much, it has big effects, and it takes long-term data sets to find and quantify the significance of what would seem to be small changes.
The change in the availability of quality forage fish may mean less growth and reproduction by the species that use these fish as their forage base. The impact becomes critical if the predator species are dependent on a particular forage fish, especially when trying to support the vulnerable phases in the life history of the predator species, such as juveniles. This ecosystem information provides essential context to the Trustee Council’s efforts to restore resources impacted by the spill. It also contributes to a significant advancement of our understanding of oceanographic and atmospheric systems in the North Pacific.
Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification of Toxins in the Marine Food Chain

Work supported by the Trustee Council has contributed significantly to the understanding of how chlorinated hydrocarbons including polychlorobyphenyls (PCBs), and DDT derivatives, bioaccumulate and biomagnify as they move up the marine food chain from phytoplankton to copepods to fish to seals to killer whales. These hydrocarbons are fat-soluble and are not generally metabolized. Instead, they accumulate in the blubber of marine mammals with the result that killer whales have many thousands of times the level of toxins than plankton (measured in parts per million or ppm).

Researchers have documented that transient whales and resident whales in the Gulf of Alaska are genetically distinct populations. While some transients travel throughout the Gulf and are known to prey mostly on marine mammals, residents usually have a more limited range and prey primarily on fish. Because of this, transient killer whales have 10 times or more the concentration of toxins than resident populations. Levels of PCBs average over 300 ppm and DDT levels over 400 ppm in transient killer whales. Calves had especially high levels of contaminants, indicating that contaminants are being passed from mother to offspring.

Direct Restoration and Infrastructure Projects
The Trustee Council funds restoration projects that directly benefit injured resources by improving habitat of injured species or preventing additional damage to these critical habitats. The following examples illustrate the diversity and scope of these projects.
Streambank Restoration on the Kenai and Russian Rivers

In 1999,sections of the streambanks of the Kenai and Russian Rivers had extensive damage, causing erosion and other impacts to river habitat essential for salmon spawning. Streambank damage on the Kenai River totaled approximately 19 miles of the river's 166-mile length, including 5.4 river miles of public land. Similar impacts had also occurred along the Russian River. The Trustee Council provided funding to an interagency and private sector partnership to replace and protect streambank vegetation and redirect public access so that sport fishing and other recreational activities could take place with minimal impact to fish and wildlife habitat. Over the three-year period from 1997-2000, 12 separate projects were completed. Trails were constructed or upgraded; streambanks were revegetated; elevated, light penetrating walkways and stairways into the rivers were constructed; and signs and interpretive displays were placed at strategic locations. The results are dramatic. Without the interpretive signs along the walkway, visitors today would have a hard time imagining the damage that existed before the restoration. This successful effort has prompted similar efforts in other areas along this well-loved and important fisheries corridor.

Photo: People fishing shoulder-to-shoulder along a section of the Kenai River. Steambank restoration on the Kenai and Russian Rivers improved public access, restored trampled river banks, and protected heavily used areas from further degradation.
Little Waterfall Creek Enhancements
In order to boost the numbers of pink and coho salmon in Kodiak-area waters, the Trustee Council funded improvements to a bypass at Little Waterfall Creek. By upgrading the fish ladder, more salmon are able to reach spawning habitat in the upper portions of the Creek. Within two years after completion of the project, the number of salmon using the ladder tripled from 20% to 59%. The ladder continues to be used by returning salmon.
Restoration Enhances Subsistence Resources
Several projects have also focused on supplementing subsistence resources for communities in the spill area. For example, the Trustee Council funded projects to release hatchery-produced king salmon fry near Chenega Bay and coho smolt in Boulder Bay near Tatitlek to create subsistence fisheries. In addition, a coho salmon project on the Kametolook River near Perryville on the Alaska Peninsula is working to strengthen the return to the river.
The Trustee Council also supported an experimental effort to spawn and raise littleneck clams and seed them on beaches in Prince William Sound and lower Cook Inlet. During the course of this project, researchers defined the conditions required to successfully spawn Alaskan littleneck clams in the hatchery, and raise large numbers of clam larvae and young clams. Large batches of clams have been raised in the hatchery and some of these have been placed on beaches near villages where subsistence users might harvest them in the future.
New Facilities Stop Marine Pollution at Its Source
Marine pollution is an additional source of environmental stress that can hinder the recovery of injured species. In order to reduce pollutants entering Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska, the Trustee Council funded the development of comprehensive plans to stop marine pollution at its source for communities in the Sound, Kodiak Borough, and lower Cook Inlet. They subsequently funded implementation of the plan with construction of "environmental operating stations" in Cordova, Valdez, Tatitlek, Chenega Bay, and Whittier. Staged implementation of similar projects has occurred in Kodiak Island communities. These waste management programs are designed to reduce chronic sources of marine pollution by providing facilities and services to properly dispose of used oil, household hazardous waste, and scrap metals. 
Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Collections

The Trustee Council provided construction funds for the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository in Kodiak, to protect archaeological resources and educate the public about Alutiiq culture. Chugachmiut was funded to develop a regional archaeological repository in Seward, and local displays in Chenega Bay, Tatitlek, Cordova, Valdez, Port Graham, Nanwalek, and Seldovia.

Alaska SeaLife Center

The Alaska SeaLife Center opened its doors May 2, 1998. This facility provides public education about the marine environment, marine research facilities, and rehabilitation of injured marine mammals and seabirds. Visitors not only view fish, seabirds, and marine mammals in natural-looking environments, but can also watch scientists conducting hands-on research. Of the $55 million total cost, the Trustee Council provided $26.2 million for the research portions of the facility necessary for the restoration program. 

Preserving and Providing Access to Information
Alaska Marine Science Symposium

This Symposium began as a forum for Trustee Council-funded researchers to share their findings and result and has evolved into the premier marine science forum in Alaska. Held annually in January, it extends over four days and showcases ocean research from the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound, to the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean. More than 75 oral presentations and 100 posters were presented in 2009.

EVOS Trustee Council Provides Project Information Online

The Trustee Council maintains an online clearinghouse that provides access to restoration, monitoring and restoration projects. Researchers around the world are able to download data to share with peers, project updates, draft findings and peer-reviewed, final reports. This valuable scientific resource documented 1,300 projects as of January 2009, and received 5,000 hits a month.

ARLIS Preserves and Provides Access to Resource Information

Shortly after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, it became clear that a great deal of information would be generated as a result of cleanup efforts, damage assessment, and restoration activities. Recognizing the need to preserve this valuable information and make it available, the Trustee Council established the Oil Spill Public Information Center (OSPIC) in 1990. In 1995, the Trustee Council partnered with six state and federal agencies and a university institute, all with libraries focused on Alaska natural resources, to consolidate their library collections and staff into one location and in October 1997, Alaska Resources Library and Information Services (ARLIS) opened its doors.

ARLIS is home to the most comprehensive collection of its kind, served by highly qualified staff specializing in resource related information. The collection includes 250,000 books, 700 journals, 400 electronic journals and databases, countless maps, photographs, CDs and DVDs, and environmental education materials. Additionally, thousands of full-text publications are available through the ARLIS catalog at www.arlis.org and print materials and media are loaned worldwide through interlibrary loan.
The Trustee Council’s pioneering partnership in ARLIS ensures permanent preservation of and continuing access to this incomparable legacy of knowledge.
Side Bar: Highlights of Library Service

  • 145,000 reference questions answered

  • 33,000 EVOS reference questions ( since 1990)

  • 347,000 visitors

  • 131,000 interlibrary loans


  • 12% of ARLIS questions were EVOS related

  • 19% of items loaned to other libraries were EVOS materials

  • 57% of items loaned to Alaska libraries were EVOS materials

Habitat Protection Strategy
The protection of habitat has been a significant component of the Exxon Valdez oil spill restoration program. The acquisition of private lands, or partial interest in private lands, assists in the recovery of species injured by the spill by removing the threat posed by impacts from development, such as real estate and logging. By purchasing land throughout the spill area, the Trustee Council ensures that key habitats for injured resources will not be further damaged from the impacts of development activities, such as speculative real estate development and logging, which were significant threats at the time of the spill.
Salmon restoration efforts in the Pacific Northwest have shown that a healthy riparian habitat—those areas along streams where salmon spawn, feed and rear their young—is essential to the health of the fishery. If the habitat required for these life stages is compromised, depleted salmon populations cannot recover. This lesson extends to other injured birds, fish, and mammals that nest, feed, molt, over-winter, and seek shelter in the spill area, and to the recovery of the services that depend upon them.
Habitat acquisition as a restoration strategy received overwhelming support by the scientific community and the public. In response to a request for comments on restoration alternatives, more than 90% of the respondents said that habitat protection and acquisition should be part of the Restoration Plan. A systematic process was developed to ensure that habitat protection actions would provide restoration benefits and proceeded in three stages: Imminent Threat, Large Parcel and Small Parcel. The Imminent Threat program resulted in the protection of lands within Kachemak Bay State Park, and the Seal Bay and Tonki Cape parcels located on Northern Afognak Island which have since become Afognak Island State Park. Work on five other identified parcels continued under the Large Parcel program.
Photo: Many species injured by the spill, such as this black oystercatcher, require coastal or upland habitat for nesting.
Photo: Mature spruce forest has been protected, providing habitat for species such as the marbled murrelet, which nest in old growth forest.
Large Parcel Program

Following these initial efforts, 90 owners of large parcels (those greater than 1,000 acres) located within the spill area were contacted to determine their interest in participating in the Trustee Council’s efforts. More than 850,000 acres were evaluated to determine their potential to benefit the recovery of resources and services injured by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The following Threshold Criteria were, and with slight modifications continue to be, applied to all parcels:

  • There is a willing seller of the parcel or property right;

  • The parcel contains key habitats that are linked to, replace, provide the equivalent of, or substitute for injured resources or services based on scientific data or other relevant information;

  • The seller acknowledges that the governments can purchase the parcel or property rights only at or below fair market value;

  • Recovery of the injured resource or service would benefit from protection in addition to that provided by the owner and applicable laws and regulations; and

  • The acquired property rights could reasonably be incorporated into public land management systems.

Since 1994, the Trustee Council committed to conceptual acquisition packages with eight large parcel landowners. Further negotiations with landowners resulted in creative habitat protection measures that include fee-simple purchases, conservation easements, timber easements, retained development sites and shareholder home sites, and protection of culturally important areas. The negotiated protection packages provide a high level of benefit for injured resources and services, native shareholders, and the public. Most agreements provide for public access for camping, hunting and fishing, restrict development, and provide for continued subsistence uses while providing economic benefits to native corporations and local communities. Native corporation shareholder approval, required before sale, ranged from 81% to 88%.

Small Parcel Program

The Small Parcel Program was designed to recognize the special qualities and strategic values of smaller tracts of land. Small parcels, which are usually less than 1,000 acres, are often located in coves, along important stretches of rivers, at the mouths of streams, adjacent to tidelands or other important habitat, adjacent to or within parks and refuges, and may be located close to spill-area communities. This program allows the Trustee Council to focus on the strategic nature of these small parcels in the context of larger areas, considering such attributes as access, special resource values such as haulouts for rookeries, and benefits to management that would accrue with consistent oversight and compatible land use activities. The small parcel program continues to attract nominations.

Prince William Sound

In the eastern region of the sound, negotiations with Eyak Corporation in 1995 resulted in the purchase of approximately 2,000 acres of timber rights along the north shore of Orca Narrows, an area slated for timber harvest located close to the town of Cordova. Subsequent negotiations with the Eyak Corporation resulted in the protection of an additional 76,138 acres involving a combination of fee simple acquisition and the acquisition of timber rights to protect habitat important to many of the resources and services injured by the spill.

Negotiations with the Tatitlek Corporation have resulted in the protection of more than 70,000 acres: 33,981 acres were acquired as a fee simple purchase and 38,148 acres were protected using a variety of conservation easements that allowed Tatitlek shareholders to retain ownership and use of Bligh Island, an area valued for its cultural significance and subsistence value.
In the western portion of the Sound, negotiations with the Chenega Corporation resulted in the protection of 60,000 acres managed by the US Forest Service and the State of Alaska. A combination of fee simple acquisitions and conservation easements were used to achieve the Council’s objectives yet provide opportunities for Chenega to develop ecotourism and lodge sites in the immediate area.
In total, agreements with the Chenega, Tatitlek and Eyak corporations resulted in protection of more than 200,000 acres, 48% through fee simple acquisition. Approximately 40% of the area is protected through conservation and timber easements managed primarily by the U.S. Forest Service. The State of Alaska acquired and manages smaller areas of these packages as well as several small parcels that complement the popular State Marine Park System. In addition, 175 acres were protected in strategically located small parcels located in or near the City of Valdez.
Kenai Peninsula

Two protection packages that received strong public support are located on the Kenai Peninsula. The first acquisition occurred in 1993, when the state acquired 23,000 acres within Kachemak Bay State Park, across the bay from Homer, to prevent logging of the old-growth maritime forest. The Trustee Council provided $7.5 million for the purchase, and the state of Alaska contributed $7 million from the Exxon criminal settlement and another $7.5 million from its civil settlement with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

In 1997, the Trustees funded the purchase of 32,470 acres within Kenai Fjords National Park and adjacent islands within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge owned by the English Bay Corporation. This package includes some of the most valuable coastal habitat within the park, which is the second most popular park in Alaska, behind Denali National Park and Preserve.
Other habitat protection efforts on the Kenai Peninsula have focused on small parcels containing valuable habitat in unique, discrete locations along the Kenai River, Anchor River, Ninilchik, and the shoreline of Cook Inlet. These small parcels are especially important for their riparian habitat and exceptional access opportunities for recreation and sport fishing.
Photo: Sunset over the snowcapped Chugach mountains, with the bright green The coastal ecosystem extends from the mountains to the sea, and includes significant wetland habitats.
Kodiak Archipelago (including Afognak and Shuyak Islands)

Shuyak Island State Park quadrupled in size in 1997 when 26,958 acres protected by the Trustee Council were added to the park along with other state lands. The habitat on Shuyak Island was highly valued for restoration benefits and is very popular for recreational purposes.

Afognak Island State Park was created in 1994 after the Council purchased 41,549 acres surrounding Seal Bay and Tonki Bay. This highly productive coastal habitat was threatened by imminent clear-cut logging of the mature spruce forest. Another 41,350 acres were protected on northern Afognak Island, adjacent to the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and Afognak Island State Park. This agreement protects some of the most highly ranked habitat in the spill region, including large buffers around the popular Paul’s Lake and Laura Lake. The extremely high economic value of the timber resources on Afognak Island makes protection of the area the most costly in the spill region. Old growth Sitka spruce, valued as good marbled murrelet nesting habitat, is also highly valued for timber. Ongoing efforts are focused on lands located between these two previous acquisition packages.
Habitat protected on Kodiak Island includes high-value land around Olga Bay and the popular and valuable salmon systems of the Karluk and Sturgeon rivers. The Trustees have protected more than 260,000 acres on the island, much of it within the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to providing protection for pink and sockeye salmon, harlequin ducks, bald eagles, black oystercatchers, and other injured resources, these acquisitions also help protect habitat important to Kodiak brown bears.
The Karluk and Sturgeon rivers were given temporary protection through a non-development easement that expires in 2011 with an option for extension of protection for 10 more years, or provides for a fee simple purchase by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Many small parcels located within the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge were acquired in Uyak Bay, Sitkalidak Straits, Kiliuda Bay and other areas on Southern Kodiak Island.
Habitat Protection Summary by Region




EVOS Trust


Prince William Sound






Eyak including Orca Narrows










Small Parcels





Kenai Peninsula

English Bay





Kachemak Bay





Small Parcels





Kodiak Archipelago

Afognak Joint Venture










Koniag Easement





Koniag Fee





Old Harbor





Seal Bay










Small Parcels









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