OSPR Issues Statement on 20th Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

California Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) Administrator Stephen Edinger today recognized the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill:

“The devastating 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound reminded people around the world of the importance of remaining vigilant.

“Californians took notice and in 1991, the Office of Spill Prevention and Response, was formed.  Since then, OSPR has been committed to protecting California’s natural resources while helping the state become better prepared to respond to environmental disasters. We look forward to continued relationships with local, state and federal partners so that California can be protected today and long into the


On March 24, 1989 the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound in Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean and killing thousands of birds and other marine animals. The event resulted in the passing of comprehensive environmental legislation to protect marine waters from pollution. These included the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and California’s 1991 Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act.

The Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Act created OSPR within the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) in 1991 to protect California’s wildlife and habitat from the effects of oil spills. OSPR is one of the few state agencies in the nation that has both major pollution response and public trustee authority for wildlife and habitat. The Act also gave the state greater oversight of the oil industry and vessel operators and as a result, oil spills along California’s coast have significantly decreased over the last 18 years.

DFG is the state department responsible for managing California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.

In the 20 years since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, California has continued to improve oil spill prevention and response, enhance the
state’s oiled wildlife search and rescue collection efforts, and step up enforcement of laws protecting our fragile oceans:

– Strengthened Marine Vessel Safety Measures: Today all oil tankers operating in California waters are required to be double-hulled to retain oil if an outer hull ruptures. All tankers operating in California ports are also required to have tug escorts. High-risk vessels are tracked in a state database and are monitored when entering California waters. Harbor Safety Committees have been established to ensure vessel navigational safety throughout the ports by establishing guidelines and best practices for maritime stakeholders.

-Improved Emergency Response Plans: Under the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Act, large cargo ships, oil tankers, platforms, refineries and other oil facilities in California are required to have up-to-date emergency plans with procedures for responding to, containing and cleaning up a spill should one occur. These plans must demonstrate verifiable capacity to conduct cleanup of a reasonable worst case scenario spill. OSPR and the U.S. Coast Guard also work cooperatively with local governments in the development and maintenance of area contingency plans that provide a roadmap for managing oil spills in each of the states six marine regions.

– Enhanced Wildlife Rescue Capabilities: California’s wildlife care and rescue operations are coordinated by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), which is funded by OSPR and managed by the Wildlife Health Center at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. The OWCN currently has 25 participating member organizations that work cooperatively during spills. The network has an extensive volunteer training program and an efficient system for the rescue, processing and care of oiled wildlife, which has become a model for the nation.

– Volunteer Training Opportunities: OSPR works with OWCN to train volunteers to participate in tasks connected to saving wildlife during oil spill response and clean-up. This program recruits, interviews and trains a corps of volunteers that can respond immediately to an oil spill all along the coastline of California. A non-wildlife training program is currently being developed in coordination with local government partners and non-governmental organizations.

– Comprehensive Natural Resources Assessment: California leads the nation in its natural resources damage assessment (NRDA) and restoration process. After a spill, a team of toxicologists, natural resource economists, environmental scientists and legal counsel evaluate the impacts to natural resources, identify restoration projects and ensure that damaged resources and uses are fully restored. Team members work with state, federal and local agencies, as well as the public, to consider not only natural resource damages, but also cultural and economic factors. The NRDA process also ensures that the party responsible for the spill is held accountable for cleanup and restoration costs as well as for compensating for lost uses.

To learn more about OSPR, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/ospr.


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