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Sixteen Alutiiq villages were included in studies following the oil spill. Their experience, disruption of their personal lives, participation in clean-up efforts, and general impacts varied significantly, in some areas as a result of relative proximity to the oil and in other areas as a result of economic inequities and other difficulties.
The kind and timing of community research shapes our understanding. The data are uneven and require careful scrutiny for quality. The methods and professional training of the researchers, the length of some of the questionnaires (up to 300 discrete items), and the mandates and funding sources of the studies superimpose upon the real local experience all kinds of variables, most of which are not easily identified.
In terms of proximity to the actual site of the spill, the distribution of the villages from the closest to furthest away is as follows: Tatitlek (5 miles), Chenega, English Bay (Nanwalek), Port Graham, Port Lions, Ouzinkie, Larsen Bay, Karluk, Old Harbor, Akhiok, Chignik Bay, Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Perryville, and Ivanof Bay (about 500 miles away). However, on the basis of relative disruptive impact, the order would be different. Chenega not only had oil (which did not hit Tatitlek) but this small village of 77 (1989 census) also served as a major centre for clean-up activities. Ouzinkie received little oil, but reacted with great fear to possible contamination of subsistence resources. Chignik Bay, centre of the highly valued red salmon run, received no perceptible oil but experienced intense hostilities within the community, centred on perceived inequities in the selection and allocation of lucrative boat charters.
Impacts on the villages were rarely the direct result of spilled oil. Rather, fear of the oil, fear of contamination, and uncertainty about how far and to what extent oil would affect the food chain concerned many, and for a long time (Fall 1993a). The continuing uncertainty of the actual distribution and effects of the oil over time became one of the single most disturbing factors during the first summer (Fall 1991a).
Another problem was the assignment of leadership positions to persons not from the local community. Such jobs paid well, and the organization hired by Exxon (VECO Inc.) did not know the residence status of the persons they were hiring. If someone looked Native, it was assumed that they were, and that they came from the local community. In fact, relatives of local residents sometimes arrived after many years of absence, took the available jobs and made a great deal of money. Because they may have appeared to have had more experience with the larger world and, sometimes, to be more educated, they were given responsible, and higher-paying, assignments. The hiring policies seemed not to take account of the local sense of fairness.
Need for extra child care was also a problem. Suddenly, parents had an opportunity to make a great deal of money in a relatively short time, especially if both worked. Young children were left to take care of other, younger children or - as in one village - a grandmother was placed in charge of 15 small children. This situation may have been of greater concern to the social workers than the parents, who were insulted by the suggestion that they were neglecting their families. Culturally distinctive characteristics of small, isolated Native villages include the relative flexibility of hours and freedom of children, especially during the summer time. However, in both towns and villages, parents expressed concern that there were so many strangers around that the usual sense of safety and security was threatened.
The flurry of meetings and media events was also disruptive, though some people thrived on the attention and the opportunities for recognition. Here, again, cultural differences were highlighted. Respected Native leaders would prefer not to call attention to them selves; however, after the oil spill, they were suddenly expected to be expert speakers, to attend all kinds of meetings, and to accept whole new categories of responsibility.
Itinerant Orthodox priests somewhat tempered the intensity of intrusion in the villages. Most of the villagers are Orthodox, a strong tradition established during the Russian America period, and recently revitalized through the establishment of a seminary in Kodiak in 1973. The Church has always played an important role in these communities. During the height of the eruption in 1912, Native residents in Kodiak went to the church and the bell was tolled. The role of the Orthodox Church after the earthquake and tsunamis of 1964 has been documented (Davis 1970). Now, with the emotional trauma of the oil spill, priests were requested to visit and to hold services. At times of environmental disaster, as at other stressful times, local communities have culturally shaped ways of managing crises.
The two large studies on village responses (Impact Assessment, Inc. and DOI MMS) both reflect a sense of social weakness in small communities - a lack of knowledge combined with different leadership styles. For example, according to these sources, "in practically all areas of impact the native communities were rendered more impotent than the non-native communities" (Rodin et al. 1992: 233). I am not persuaded that this is true. Native communities may be more capable of managing impacts and initiating recovery than the towns.
The range of concerns, irritations, and benefits varied greatly among the affected towns during the summer of 1989. Polarizations, between those who worked for Exxon or its contracted service organization VECO Inc. and those who did not, set people against each other in new ways. Many looked favourably on opportunities to make large sums of money ($16.69 an hour) on clean-up activities, or to charter their boats (up to $6,000 a day), or to provide other well-paid services. Those not hired, or who spurned Exxon or VECO, scorned their neighbours who accepted the employment. If a fisherman or any local resident wanted to make money, the opportunity generally was available. If, on the other hand, a fisherman refused to work for the oil company that was perceived as being responsible for the mess, then he was doubly penalized - he lost the chance to make money from the clean-up and he also lost expected income from fishing areas that were closed because of fears about oil contamination. Disagreements among the fishermen were intense and painful. Lack of resolution, combined with a sudden decline in chum salmon during the summer of 1993, led frustrated fishermen to block tanker traffic on Valdez Arm in a desperate attempt to force a discussion with Exxon about their claims. Litigation, and decline in fish stocks, prices, and permit value, have unquestionably slowed recovery for this segment of the population.
As a community, Cordova appears to have suffered the greatest disruption for the longest time and gained the least. Before 1989 it was already a conflict-ridden town; the oil spill may just have offered a new arena for traditional hostilities and exacerbated some of the old problems. But this may also be a misreading of the evidence because more data have been gathered - and made available - on Cordova than on other towns (Picou et al. 1992; Dyer, Gill, and Picou 1992; Reynolds 1993).
Nevertheless, the sources of dispute in Cordova were many: they included the fishermen's willingness or unwillingness to help; inequities of hire by Exxon and Veco; closure of the fishing season; a sudden decline in the number and price of chum salmon, from 40 cents a pound in 1990 to 12 in 1991; decline of fish permit values; the suicide of Cordova's Mayor (Enge 1993); protracted litigation; the fishermen's boycott of oil tankers in August 1993; and the announcement, in September 1993, that 74 of the boycotting boats might face fines from the Coast Guard. Clearly, during 1993, the fishermen from Cordova had not recovered. For many, as reported by Reynolds (1993), "the 1989 oil spill was still an unfolding disaster. Spillrelated problems, fears, and conflicts were widespread." And they still are.
Conditions were different in Valdez. Here, the community was inundated by people, goods, guards, media, and traffic. The oil industry had long been a mainstay of the community and most people had benefited directly or indirectly from the presence of the Alaska pipeline terminus. As the clean-up progressed, there was a massive convergence of people and materials on Valdez. Everyone who wanted to work, could. New bed and breakfast accommodations were opened. People rented their extra bedrooms; some even rented their whole houses and left the state. But, as the population climbed from 2,500 to 10,000, the strain was too much, even for a town that claimed to be accustomed to similar fluctuations. Local residents found they had to forego eating out in restaurants, baby sitters, visiting friends, and going to baseball games. Even the traditional Gold Rush Day celebrations were cancelled in 1989. By July 1990, local people were out of patience with the oil spill and its aftermath; the town had the exhausted feeling that comes with being in a war zone (Robbing, E. 1993).
Seward, like Valdez, was accustomed to increased traffic brought by seasonal tourism, but to nothing like that experienced during the summer of 1989. Unlike some other communities, people in Seward took control of the situation before oil actually approached the area (US DOI 1993a, 1993b).
Of all the impacts on Alaskan towns the uproar in Kodiak is perhaps the most thoroughly documented (Impact Assessment Inc. 1990; US DOI 1993a, 1993b; see, especially, Endter-Wada et al. 1993). Kodiak processes the third-largest volume of fish of any port in North America, and, although little oil reached the town, extensive disruption did.
In summary, the impacts of Exxon Valdez on the communities of southern Alaska varied greatly. Towns and villages experienced different levels of threat; different volumes of oil, and different degrees of contamination; different amounts of access to money and other clean-up benefits; and differences in the quantity and quality of research that was accomplished.
Other kinds of recovery activities
It is impossible to give definitive answers about the recovery process because so much either is not known or remains unpublished. Nearly all of the research funded to date is concerned with the biology of Prince William Sound (Natural Resource Damage Assessments [NRDA] 1992; Oil Spill Public Information Center [OSPIC] 1992). But it is difficult to be sure just what the long-term effects of the spill on non-human life-forms have been. The situation is complicated by the fact that oil has been spilled here at several times in the past. For example, oil that was used in the Valdez asphalt plant was originally imported from California. Patches were found on two of eight beaches tested in Prince William Sound, distributed there by the massive tsunami that followed the 1964 earthquake (Anchorage Daily News, 16 September 1992). In a study of six major oil spills (not including Exxon Valdez), Mielke (1990) found that the ocean unlike the mass media - was impressively forgiving in a relatively short time. But many questions remain to be answered, and one wonders about ocean recovery over time, in the face of accumulated pollution.
Obviously, much of the biota that was originally damaged has recovered in the sense of surviving in numbers similar to those of the past, but there is no clear understanding of what the word "recovery" might mean and hence no measure of what should be looked for. However, if the Alutiiq communities survived the 1912 Katmai eruption and the 1964 earthquake, it may be safe to assume that they will also survive the consequences of the oil spill. If the people of Valdez have managed to rebound from a gold rush, a fire, an earthquake, and a tsunami, we must assume that they will also survive Exxon Valdez, perhaps exceptionally well. But social scientists who want to analyse the human responses to this oil spill are severely handicapped because there are virtually no funds for understanding that process. Moreover, pending litigation has put a damper on scientific research of all kinds. The few investigators who might be in a position to offer informed assessments are discouraged from offering their views by the threat of legal penalties.
On 4 April 1989, two weeks after the oil spill, the law firms of Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, and Miller of Anchorage and Cohen, Milstein, and Hausfeld of Washington DC filed a class action suit against Exxon Corporation, Exxon Shipping Co., and Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. on behalf of plaintiffs. The latter included Native residents in the seven Chugach communities, six Native councils, nine individuals, and the non-profit Native Corporation (North Pacific Rim) that provides services to the Native residents in the Chugach region. That was only the beginning. By December 1989, more than 150 lawsuits had been filed. A year later, Exxon had committed more than $302 million to fund compensation of 12,300 damage claims, but many remained unresolved.
By September 1993, Exxon had settled claims with the State of Alaska and federal agencies for 1 billion dollars. However, approximately 55,000 claimants and about 50 law firms were still involved in continuing litigation; 115 expert witnesses had been hired for pending court cases. There may even be as many as 19,000 third-party legal cases still pending. Many years after the spill, original data of researchers were still being subpoenaed for use in court suits, including information from the Subsistence Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the one agency that has ongoing pre-spill and post-spill data about the impacted communities.
This wide-ranging and prolonged litigation "mania" must be considered as one of the more significant impacts of the oil spill. Scientific investigations have been paralysed, research funding has been slow to be released, and a strange kind of professional paranoia has set in, polarizing scientists and keeping them silent in the face of court-imposed gag rules. Others have reported that intimidation haunts research (Tierney and Quarantelli 1992: 167173; Shaw 1992; Stone 1993; Roberts 1992; Wheelwright 1991). The research that was funded tended to be focused on short-term impacts for the purposes of documenting damage. A major set-back for social scientists occurred when Picou, a University of Southern Alabama sociologist, was requested by Exxon to release the original data from his team's three-year study in Cordova (Anchorage Daily News, 26 May 1993).
Among the many problems inhibiting creative research during the summer of 1990 was the question of boundaries. Who was responsible for studying which part of the environment - the federal agencies, the state agencies, Exxon, or the Native organizations? At what point on the beach did federal responsibility end and state jurisdiction begin? If the land was under Native control, who, then, was responsible? How did the tides affect the studies and the boundaries? Could different agencies at least coordinate research in the intertidal zones?
At fall 1989 meetings of the Arctic Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Fairbanks, no one could officially report anything about anything: all research had a strange (and unhealthy) constraint placed on it because all research was assumed to be potentially contentious in the decades of litigation that were anticipated.3 The intrusion of litigation on research following this disaster may be a reflection of similar directions in other scientific fields, such as DNA studies (Roberts 1992).
If social science is going to be increasingly directed (and funded) by attorneys, especially after disasters, then appropriate steps must be taken to study vulnerable communities before a disaster strikes. Then at least some baseline - relatively independent - data will be available on the richness of local human cultures, including corporate and governmental ones.
Certainly, in the case of Exxon Valdez, many different cultures were involved. Most fishermen, business people, agency personnel, and Native residents had never before met employees of one of the world's largest corporations. And most Exxon employees were not accustomed to understanding the values and cultural complexes of people living in Alaska's small isolated communities. They were, literally, from markedly different worlds. Other distinctive perspectives separated seine fishermen from setnetters, and Native fishermen with small boats from non-Native fishermen with large ones. Inter-agency jurisdictional disputes and differences in outlook compounded cultural and historical differences between state agencies and federal ones. Federal mandates within the Department of the Interior, such as the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Fish and Wildlife Service, differ quite markedly from the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture (Clark and McCool 1985). The Alaska Department of Fish and Game have their own special divisions and sections devoted to different species. Added to this mix were the traditional feuds between one town and another, between one village and another. The diversity of cultures in this relatively small part of the world was magnified by the forcing action of the oil spill. It should have been a social anthropologist's heyday. And, in many ways, it was: here could be found sharp polarities between the good guys and the bad guys, the rich and the poor, the environmentalists and the capitalists, loggers and attorneys - the conflict of many cultures exacerbated for many years by one oil spill.
But, for the purposes of this paper a central question remains: at what point does negative impact cease and recovery begin? Many reports are available on the recovery of fauna and flora. Studies funded by the oil industry found it to be remarkably quick and complete (Jahns and Koons 1993), but others thought that reports about recovery were premature and highly questionable (Wolforth 1993). The results depend partly on what is being studied and partly on who is doing the research and the reporting. Public controversy concerning these studies has not helped to resolve the questions. Thus far, no study has specifically addressed recovery in the human communities. An underlying assumption in the community studies that have been undertaken is a lack of recovery, of long-term distress, and continuing mental problems related to the oil spill (Impact Assessments Inc. 1990; US DOI 1993a, 1993b). It is highly unlikely that any study will be funded to address the question of lingering problems, or the absence of them.
Studies directed toward documenting long-term disruption and mental distress of two categories of people - the Native people and fishermen - are generally not available, though some indication of continuing oil spill-related problems in Cordova is given by Keeble (1993), Picou et al. (1992), and Reynolds (1993). Studies that have been designed to address those issues are confidential and are being reserved for court on advice of attorneys. Nothing official can be reported without, presumably, jeopardizing the chances of Natives and fishermen for financial retribution in some distant future.
Unofficially, and as an independent scholar, I can report the following observations based on study of past recovery from other disasters. The Native villages have remarkable recovery capability. The residents in very small communities seem to have a philosophy of tolerance, a resiliency to disruptions, a sense of humour, and a traditional fisherman's perspective that if things are bad this year they probably will be better next year. This is an adaptive optimism for a people who live with great fluctuations in year-to-year economy. Also, village residents have family - they are rich in relatives - and they maintain a value system that does not dwell on past misery. The Alutiiq people, like the Yupik and Inupiat further north, prefer not to talk about bad things of the past; nor are they inclined to project plans long into the future. These traits, though wholesome for traditional community health, are difficult for resource agencies committed to the planning processes and to eliciting local ideas in the peculiar format called "public hearings."
Native adaptation strategies of creative accommodation to changes provide a challenge for attorneys, who seek evidence of social, mental, and economic damage linked to Exxon Valdez in order to win funds for their clients and fees for themselves. A classic example of coaching to say the politically correct thing in public occurred during the summer of 1989. A "chief," who was billed as a high subsistence resource user of a small village supposedly inundated with oil, was scheduled to read a speech at a meeting of international "oiled mayors." An attorney wrote a rather powerful, emotional, narrative, but the chief did not read it. Nor did he attend the meeting. The oil had not damaged his resources: he was a relatively wealthy man and no longer participated in the rigour of subsistence harvesting and processing; he bought his groceries in a store. Later that fall, his village had a hard time processing all the free fish that was shipped at great expense. The freezers were already full of store-bought goods. Furthermore, significant amounts of oil never reached this community. But social services and attorneys did. The chief was too kind to hurt their feelings and, for a while, simply accepted what others insisted on bringing - including a speech he is credited with but did not write.
After the 1964 earthquake, three Kodiak villages took specific actions to resolve various kinds of pre-disaster conflict before initiating steps for reconstruction. Resolving those arenas of conflict may be considered a kind of recovery. Also, one of the communities had experienced so much intrusion in the lives of its people that its residents wanted to "declare a three month vacation and none of your white people come" (Davis 1969). Similar responses were evident after the 1989 disaster. English Bay experienced so much intrusion upon the privacy of their village that the council declared a 90day moratorium on visitors, beginning in November 1990. If any agency had business in the village, its representatives could request permission to come; if permission were granted, they could arrive only on Tuesday, would be met at the plane, accompanied by a community member until business was completed, and escorted back to the plane for departure on the same day. As further indication of the struggle to retrieve and reassert some autonomy, this community also changed its name to Nanwalek, an Alutiiq (Sugestun) placename for the area. These may be considered steps of recovery.
Nearby, Port Graham residents were surprised to learn, in October 1991, that the American Indian Heritage Foundation, located in Falls Church, Virginia, was sending out "arrow-star telegrams" to solicit funds for the starving "Paiutes" (not Aleuts) of Port Graham. In December they were offered 1,000 pounds of liver, which they managed to decline in time, through threat of legal action. This episode was recalled with hilarity, but it was irritating at the time because this village is quite self-sufficient and certainly did not need, desire, or request liver. Later that year, the hefty women's volleyball team had T-shirts made which carried the slogan "The Starving Paiutes of Port Graham." Recovery was signalled even earlier by cartoons in the newspapers, and T-shirts which read: "Let's go to Naked Island and be Crude" and "We cleaned PWS rock, by rock, by rock, by rock, by rock..."
So much free food was distributed out of Chenega, one fisherman reported he gained 28 pounds in weight by mid-July. Other well-fed residents also developed what was called "The Exxon Waddle." On Southern Kenai Peninsula the added pounds were called "The Port Chatham Roll."
Another village refused to respond to agency requests and offers of help. They just wanted to be left alone, which may be one quality of their former life they will never be able to reclaim. Through the media attention to the oil spill in 1989, Prince William Sound and all of the coastal areas of south-central Alaska have been discovered by the world. Privacy as they knew it before has been lost, probably irreversibly. But new skills, a new sense of ethnicity, and inter-regional awareness were also part of recovery.
Over half a century ago, Sorokin suggested that calamities tend to strengthen public and social controls at the expense of private and individual ones:
The main uniform effect of calamities upon the political and social structure of society is an expansion of governmental regulation, regimentation, and control of social relationships and a decrease in the regulation and management of social relationships by individuals and private groups. (Sorokin 1943: 122)
The Exxon Valdez case reinforces Sorokin's view. After the initial confused flurry of activity (e.g. ill-directed action; bickering about jurisdiction and procedures; fighting over funds, mandates, and litigation), numerous organizations that are ostensibly involved in recovery have done remarkably well. As measured by new personnel, new agencies, new organizations, new legislation, more funds, additional monitoring devices and escort vessels, greater overall coordination and organizational complexity, and enhanced levels of corporate and public awareness of risks and responsibilities, the oil spill might be considered a great enduring boon to the people of southern Alaska. Much was learned and many precautionary preventive actions taken.
Two major laws warrant particular comment: these are the (federal) Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and the State of Alaska's oil spill prevention bill, House Bill 567. "OPA 90," as the first law has come to be known, is major oil spill legislation, 182 pages in length. This law established many new organizations and at least 40 new regulations. For example, regional advisory councils were mandated: the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens' Advisory Council and the Regional Citizens' Advisory Council of Prince William Sound are outgrowths of the bill. The latter, for example, is an independent non-profit organization formed in late 1989 to "promote environmentally safe operation of the crude oil terminal in Valdez, Alaska and the tankers it serves." This body has 18 member organizations, a staff of 14, four task forces, eight community response centres, and a publication called The Observer. The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council (RCAC) is under contract with the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company to monitor and advise Alyeska about terminal operations, spill prevention, response planning, and other environmental issues (RCAC 1993). The funding level for 1992 was $2.224 million.
Also newly formed and mandated by OPA 90, the Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) is an organization of 22 US oil transporters and producers, that was required to have 16 spill-response ships equipped, online and located in five regional centres in 1993. The cost of MSRC was about $900 million for equipment, facilities, and personnel (US GAO 1991a; Robbins, L. 1993: 476).
Another new organization is the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council established in October 1991 as a result of the civil settlement by Exxon Corporation with the State of Alaska and the Federal Government. Six trustees - three state and three federal - were appointed to administer $900 million to be received over a 10 year period. By July 1993 a total of $240 million had been paid by Exxon. The intent of the funds is to restore the resources and associated services injured by the spill. A fact sheet dated July 1993 identifies 49 projects funded in 1992 and 1993 for $37 million (Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council 1993). These projects appear in four broad categories: General Restoration ($5,357,700), Habitat Protection ($23,017,770), Recovery Monitoring ($8,650,400), and projects to support restoration activities ($354,300). The studies funded include, for example, 18 of fish ($6,517,800), 8 of birds ($3,133,700), 5 of sea mammals ($939,900), 2 of shellfish ($1,278,800), and 2 of algae ($993,100). In addition there are administrative costs (the organization includes staff, a restoration team, work groups, and a public advisory group) and reimbursement costs for agencies that were participants in the original clean-up effort. A report by the US GAO concerning the use of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Settlement funds raised serious questions about the management and allocation of funds (US GAO 1993).
Part of community recovery may involve the allocation of Exxon Valdez Trust funds for the purchase of lands to protect natural resources from future developments, or for the replacement of resources lost or harmed by the oil spill. By September 1993, several steps had been taken (or were being considered) by the Trustees Council that, at least indirectly, and eventually, may provide some "recovery" funds or benefits to the communities. For example, these included $7.5 million for the purchase of inholdings in Kachemak Bay, and a commitment to purchase lands in Seal Bay on Afognak Island. Negotiations were continuing in 1993 for the protection of threatened habitats in three additional locations. Also, the Trustees Council has approved $1.5 million for a Kodiak Museum. In these cases, at least, some direct benefit to the communities involved may occur. However, as stated in the GAO report (August 1993), much of the Trustees Council funds have thus far been allocated to staff and study costs. The studies that have been funded are primarily being done by state and federal agencies that are already involved in assessment and restoration of the habitat.
The Oil Spill Public Information Center (or "OSPIC"), a new library - with staff - has been created in Anchorage. New divisions in agencies include the Spill Prevention and Response Division in the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Oil Spill Impact Assessment and Restoration is a new division within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that was created in 1989. In 1992 it was merged with the Habitat Division and is now called the Habitat and Restoration Division. The National Park Service created a Coastal Program Division in 1990 that at one time had over 100 people involved. Now there are only eight people, and four of these are temporary employees. One result of the oil spill is that it highlighted how complex and overlapping the many agencies had become. The creation of a single research agency, the National Biological Survey, may serve to consolidate federal science projects in the future.
Oil companies have also added new personnel, equipment, and organization. For example, by February 1990, less than a year after the spill, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company had taken specific measures to minimize the risks that lead to oil spills, including more escort vessels; 24-hour duty crews; increased pilot requirements; enhanced and more frequent radio communications; establishment of a Navigation Committee; and other steps, including training, drug and alcohol screening, and equipment and personnel increases (Alyeska Corporate Affairs 1990).
The following is a brief list of some other changes that had occurred in response to the oil spill by late 1993 (RCAC 1993): the vessel traffic system now includes a watch supervisor, more radar coverage, and a navigation aid on Thigh Reef; speed restrictions and more escort vessels; weather restrictions; breath tests of all tanker captains an hour before sailing; tanker escorts; containment booms in Valdez while cargo is being transferred; double hulls for all tankers in US waters by 2015; tanker inspections; citizen involvement; more monitoring and oversight by regulatory agencies, especially the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the US Coast Guard; and more training, equipment, inspection, maintenance, contingency plans, and clarification of who is responsible when. The Alyeska Ship Escort and Response Vessel System includes five escorts and three tugs. There are 33 miles of containment boom, 37 skimming systems and barges on line, and 300 boats and crews trained in basic oil-spill response. Spill containment and removal equipment is stockpiled at five fish hatcheries, and storage capacity for nearly 20 million gallons of recovered oil and water mixture is available. Now, drills are held as part of the training: in 1992, nine drills were held. As an example of the magnitude of these drills, in early October 1993, 90 boats and more than 300 people in Valdez participated. An Incident Command System has been worked out that integrates the party responsible for the spill, the State of Alaska, and the Coast Guard; it establishes a predetermined decision-making process and a common language that is intended to reduce significantly confusion and misunderstandings among personnel from different organizations (RCAC 1993: 17).
Unfortunately, sometimes "solutions" create new risks, in addition to new jobs, surveillance, and safety. For example, one of the new oil-spill response boats assigned to Cook Inlet, the 193-foot vessel Sun Tide, accidently struck a drilling rig, spilling 13,000 gallons of diesel fuel on 23 August 1993 (Kizzia 1993b). In this case the oil dissipated in about 12 hours, and no environmental damage occurred. This spill from an oil-spill watch boat gave other oil-spill response boats and crews an opportunity to respond and to hone their skills. With more boats and personnel involved, the chance of accidents may - ironically - be increased.
With the increase in jobs and departments, there is always a risk of downsizing, and merging of positions and divisions, surely stressful for those involved. This happened at the Native non-profit service organization North Pacific Rim (Chugachmiut), the National Park Service, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, for example. The RCAC Observer (Summer 1993) also reports concern that the State of Alaska is going to cut back funding, surveillance - and jobs.
One of the unintended consequences of delivering oil to the United States now, as a result of OPA 90, is "increased liability insurance policies: from 49 cents per gross ton to $7.12." These increased costs forced oil companies to look for and develop fields elsewhere, increasing risks abroad and increasing costs at home (Browning and Shetler 1993). With all the new organizations that have been created, the response to future oil spills will probably be better organized and more expensive, if not more effective.
Other kinds of recovery activities
The first year after the oil spill was in some ways an exceptionally creative one for many individuals. Poems were written (O'Meara 1989), songs composed, museum exhibits prepared, books drafted, cartoons drawn, pictures painted, and emotional singing wakes held. The Chugach Symphony, composed by Philip Munger, was performed by the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra on 21 October 1989. Further, many new "words" have been added to the local lexicon - "Evos" for Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, "OPA 90" for the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, "OSPIC" for the Oil Spill Public Information Center and "RCAC," the Regional Citizens' Advisory Committee.
The oil spill brought out a human compassion for animals, especially the sea otters; it highlighted a national concern about environment. The attention challenged Exxon and other oil corporations into new precautionary efforts. OPA 90 and HB 567 insisted on it. Cleanup efforts brought $2 billion to the state during the first summer. If good things are measured by amounts of money, then, as one villager observed, "Santa Claus sure came the summer of 1989." But the Alaska Fish and Game Subsistence Division reported a marked decrease in subsistence harvest, processing, and consumption the year following the oil spill; it is assumed this was because people were afraid to eat anything from the sea. What need to be added to the equation are the amounts of cash (and free groceries) that were available. Some local conflict occurred over who got how much, and over the advice to several communities by attorneys to reject free food from Exxon because it would weaken their case for compensation later.
Indications of perceived positive results are reflected in the statement of a village chief who noted, "now we know more about our relatives in Prince William Sound." The sense of unified ethnicity was recognized, and encouraged, by a series of regional meetings and elders' conferences. The Native organization, North Pacific Rim, changed its named to Chugachmiut and, for several years. increased in funding and personnel hired from 55 (in 1989) to over 150 in 1992. However, when the funds declined and jobs were lost, regrouping was necessary. Perhaps this is an example of how a response to the original impact was so great that a new impact on the region was created when the jobs, services, and funds were subsequently reduced.
But, what is recovery?
At what point does "impact" of oil-related events shift toward `'recovery"? Is there a threshold; is there a critical event that marks the change? How do we perceive recovery, and how do we measure and study it? In the case of Exxon Valdez, hundreds of studies of "impact" have been accomplished, some published. "Recovery" and "restoration" of the biological aspects of the ecology are being studied and debated. The sudden plunge in the numbers of pink salmon in the summer of 1993 is considered by the fisherman to be a continuation of the impact and, for some, it is clearly delaying their "recovery."
But, to date, no published study has addressed the recovery of the communities. And it is not likely any study will be funded for such consideration until after the litigation has been resolved. What recovery has occurred as of 1993 remains undocumented, unvoiced. To ask, to study, to document, and to publish evidence of recovery of communities or of the fishermen would be to jeopardize class action court cases against the corporate giant. For the time being, we must simply assume that at least the Alutiiq villagers are recovering with the strengths and the resilience documented from previous disasters.
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