Don't Let an Oil Spill Ruin the Copper River Salmon Run
The ageing Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) crosses five major tributaries to the Copper River, all of which are salmon spawning rivers.
Despite state and federal pipeline oversight, "there have been repeated leaks and spills in the Alaska pipeline network over the last several years. The most serious occurred in March 2006 when corrosion in BP’s network of north Alaska feeder lines caused a spill of more than 260,000 gallons of oil..." (New York Times, Jan. 9, 2011.)
In fact, there have already been two major spills in 2011. In January more than 13,000 gallons of crude oil spilled at Pump Station 1 causing a system shutdown and, in July, a series of pipeline leaks spewed between 2,100 and 4,200 gallons of methanol and oily water onto the Alaskan tundra.
Enough is enough. Many people in the Copper River drainage rely on salmon for their livelihoods and way of life. Commercial salmon harvesting annually contributes approximately 143 million dollars to Prince William Sound's economy and more than 500 million dollars to Alaska's economy overall (Alaska Department of Fish & Game, "2010 Alaska Commercial Salmon Harvests and Exvessel Values," http://bit.ly/o3fLyZ ). These numbers don’t take into account the millions of tourism dollars brought in through sport fishing and the invaluable nourishment and self-sufficiency provided by subsistence fishing.
Citizens can’t afford to sit idly by and wait for another Exxon Valdez scale catastrophe to ruin the 34 major and more than 800 other rivers and streams crossed by the pipeline. If a spill occurs at the pipeline's Tazlina River crossing, it will take only 6 hours for oil to travel 23 miles downriver (United States. Trans-Alaska Pipeline Spill Scenario -Mid August. Cordova: ecotrust, 2006. Print.). Oil will quickly end up in the main stem of the Copper River and damage spawning and migratory habitat of the world-famous Copper River salmon.
The Prince William Sound Regional Citizen Advisory Council (http://www.pwsrcac.org/) provides an example of the safety and environmental benefits of independent citizen oversight. It’s time to extend these benefits beyond the terminal; it’s time for Congress to authorize a TAPS Citizen Advisory Council.
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