Problem: A deep water port at Shepard Point (proposed under the false pretext as an oil spill response location) would allow devastating resource extraction and actually hinder oil spill response effectiveness.
Goal: An accessible and effective rapid oil spill rapid response facility in an environmentally sound and safe location for Eastern Prince William Sound, in Cordova.
Cordova, Alaska was one of the original staging areas for the Exxon Valdez oil spill response team and today continues to harbor the largest oil spill response fleet in the Prince William Sound. Despite Cordova’s strategic importance, for years, the Eyak Preservation Council has opposed the Shepard Point deep water port development even though the project has long masqueraded as one that would increase oil spill response capabilities in the region. The problem: a deep water port at Shepard Point would pave the way for devastating resource extraction and actually hinder oil spill response effectiveness. Currently, a deep water access port does not exist in the eastern portion of Prince William Sound. Shepard Point would provide the necessary infrastructure to facilitate logging, mountain top removal coal mining and road development into an otherwise roadless area. Any of these destructive development projects would destroy boreal rainforest and threaten the vital riverine habitat that has supported healthy wild salmon runs, Native culture and the economic sustainability of the region. While a deep water access port at Shepard Point raises a variety of environmental concerns, the project has also met widespread community opposition because the location actually decreases oil spill response effectiveness. Currently, the SERVS-certified oil spill response team, which is made up of local commercial fishing vessels, operates out of the Cordova small boat harbor. Shepard Point is located five nautical miles (nm) north of Cordova. The remote Shepard Point location increases the travel time for oil spill response teams and resupply vessels by 3.9 nm for spills in Prince William Sound, by 10.1 nm for spills in the Gulf of Alaska or the Copper River Delta and by 10.1 miles for spills in Orca Inlet. That added distance could delay response time by an hour or more. In addition, to be effective any oil spill response staging area would need to be close to the Cordova airport, have year round road access and be close to town resources. Shepard Point has none of these attributes. Of the possible oil spill response facility locations in Cordova, Shepard Point is the least accessible from the airport and the farthest from town. Oil spill response planners are also extremely concerned about year-round road access because the proposed Shepard Point road would traverse 18 active avalanche chutes. Any road closure could seriously delay response time and access to response equipment. Despite these serious problems with the Shepard Point project, proponents continue to push for the development. In the ongoing saga, most recently, EPC’s effort to expose the underlying agenda and problems with the Shepard Point project resonated strongly with the community and again halted the development of the deep water port. In April 2010, prior to the final Clean Water Act permit decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Native Village of Eyak requested a suspension of the permit application. For the time being, the Army Corps has closed the permit file, but the Shepard Point project is not going away.
For 18 years, EPC and others have succeeded in stopping the ill-advised Shepard Point project. Now is the time to shift gears and take a proactive approach. The community of Cordova has waited long enough and deserves to have an oil spill response facility that makes strategic, economic and environmental sense.
Another location that is less environmentally damaging, expensive, and dangerous has been deemed acceptable for the oil spill response facility by the Army Corps of Engineers. It is EPC's intention is to have the consent decree (see facts) changed to include this location and have it chosen for the facility's construction.
URGENT UPDATE | Shepard Pointless!
Yet again we must alert the local and regional community which has come out time and time again against this proposed bad port project.
During our ongoing due diligence, we recently found a new twist has been thrown into the mix. The Native Village of Eyak jumped over the government agencies it had been working with (Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Transportation) and started working with a division of Department of Transportation called the Western Federal Lands Highway Division (FHA).
EPC has uncovered that documents were signed less than a month ago, including a Memo of Understanding, which reveal that Federal Lands Highway Division and Department of Transportation will transfer $250,000 of public monies in July to Native Village of Eyak. The stated reason by the contact, Robert Sparrow at the FHA is for "...implementation, planning, and permitting....".
These monies are earmarked specifically for construction of an oil spill response facility, though, as explained above under "Facts", Shepard Point was erroneously listed as the only specified location. EPC's contact at FHA stated he didn't know that there are avalanche chutes on the road easement and major community opposition. He said he had been to Shepard point, but it was so foggy he couldn't see anything that day.
We have contacted the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Lands Highway Division in Washington DC and the Department of Transportation and have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the FHA, which we should receive this week, and we will update this communication as soon as we get the documents.
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Alaska Department of Transportation (ADOT) and now the Western Federal Lands Highway Division (FHA) have teamed up with the Native Village of Eyak Traditional Council (NVE) to build a 4.5-mile road and deep water port in the name of "Oil Spill Response" at Shepard Pt., in Nelson Bay in the Prince William Sound, north of Cordova.
- In 1992, the State of Alaska and the Federal Government reached a settlement agreement with Alyeska Pipeline Services Company to address damages for Alyeska's contribution to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
- The Agreement designates $6,000,000 for the construction of a road from Cordova to Shepard Point and, when appropriate, for work related to the construction of a response storage facility and the prepositioning of oil spill response equipment at that location.
- Unfortunately, the Agreement (consent decree) erroneously identifies Shepard Point as the only location for the oil spill response facility in Cordova. The project money can only be used for that laocation. EPC intends to see this changed.
Campaign Highlights 2010
- EPC/Trustees for Alaska submitted a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request to the Army Corps of Engineers and received new information about the positioning of the Shepard Point project.
- EPC mounted a community education and awareness campaign. EPC conducted radio interviews that included live discussion, placed advertisements and posters, posted web site updates and sent email alerts.
- EPC met with the owner or Orca Cannery and reached an agreement that would make the site an available option for the oil spill response facility. EPC then informed the Army Corps of Engineers about the Orca Cannery option and encouraged the Corps to consider the location as a less environmentally damaging alternative and one that makes more economic and strategic sense.
- EPC/Trustees for Alaska submitted comments to the Army Corps of Engineers opposing the Native Village of Eyak's Clean Water Act permit application.
- Following the expiration of the comment period, the Native Village of Eyak requested a suspension of the permit application. The Corps has closed the permit file until NVE makes its next move.