Oil Spill Response Facility Earmarked for AK

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 @ 04:10 PM gHale

Sixteen years in the making; an oil spill response facility at Shepard Point, a deep-water access site near Cordova, Alaska, with access to the all-weather airport, garnered construction approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Native Village of Eyak said Monday.

Approval came after more than 16 years of study by federal and state agencies. The project has the support of NVE, Chugach Alaska Corp., the city of Cordova, the Eyak Corp. and Alaska’s congressional delegation, NVE officials said.

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The facility was one of three facilities outlined in a federal court approved consent decree to resolve litigation in the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Tribal leaders said NVE took the lead in soliciting funds from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, and over the last two decades worked to design and redesign the facility to minimize and mitigate adverse environmental impacts of the project. They also said they were pleased with the Corps’ decision on location of the site as the preferred alternative, and that it is the only available site to locate a deep draft dock near Cordova that will allow for quick response to Prince William Sound in the event of an oil spill or other incident.

Once completed, the facility will significantly improve oil spill response times and allow for docking and resupply of the same type of deep-draft emergency response vessels that were employed for cleaning up after the Exxon Valdez disaster of March 24, 1989. It will allow large vessels from SERVS (Ship Escort/Response Vessel System) to dock during drills, regardless of tide.

The devastating impact of the disaster was a driving force behind the tribe’s efforts for construction of the new facility.

“The Native Village of Eyak saw our environment decimated during the spill,” said Darrel Olsen, NVE tribal council chairman. “We agree that Shepard Point, a naturally occurring deep water port with quick access to the sound, is the best place for the oil spill response facility.”

“We are pleased to be moving forward with this important facility after decades of study and discussion,” said Kerin Kramer, NVE’s executive director. “We know the residents of this area of Prince William Sound will be better protected with this facility in place.”

The facility will be accessible via a 4.5-mile single lane gravel road. Concerns about impact to vegetation, such as eelgrass and other relevant issues, led the tribe to take a step back and develop a new design for the road, to ensure that environmental impacts were minimized and mitigated, NVE said.

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