Exxon Valdez: disaster remembered, series of events in store

Exxon Valdez oil spill victim.   - Contributed photo / Los Angeles Times
Exxon Valdez oil spill victim.
— image credit: Contributed photo / Los Angeles Times

On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez was steered onto a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, resulting in an oil spill of 11 million gallons of crude oil.

The 25th anniversary of the disaster, a continuing environmental nightmare and human tragedy, will be memorialized in San Juan County with a series of events and activities beginning Friday, March 14, and ending with a unique oil spill simulation on March 24.

The commemoration is being produced by the San Juans Alliance, a new consortium of the Lopez NO COALition, the Orcas NO COALition, the Friends of the San Juans and San Juan Islanders for Safe Shipping.

The new alliance, said the organizers, “wants to remind islanders of the devastation caused by environmental disasters as an illustration of the risks to the San Juan Islands by the ever-increasing volume of shipping in the Salish Sea, with particular attention paid to proposed projects to transport fossil fuels through Bellingham and Vancouver ports.”

On the weekend of March 14 to March 16, Gary Shigenaka, a marine biologist for NOAA, and Julie Knight, Executive Director of the Islands Oil Spill Association, will speak on the subject Our Islands at Risk:  Increased Vessel Traffic and Increased Risk of a Major Oil Spill.

Shigenaka, who specializes in marine life studies during oil spills, will talk about how various cargo and propulsion oils would likely behave if spilled in a marine environment. Knight  will talk about local spill response preparedness.

The lecture schedule: Lopez Island, March 14, 7 p.m., at Lopez Center; Orcas Island, March 15, 12:30 p.m. at Orcas Episcopal Church; San Juan Island, March 16, 12:30 p.m. at the San Juan Island Grange.

Screenings of the award-winning documentary “Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdes”:  San Juan Island, Tuesday, March 18, 7 pm at the San Juan Island Grange, sponsored by the San Juan Island Film Festival; Orcas Island, Sunday, March 23, 3 p.m. at the Orcas Senior Center, sponsored by the San Juan Alliance; Lopez land, Monday, March 24, 7 p.m. at the Lopez Library.

On Monday, March 24,  the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, a drift card drop will simulate what would happen if a spill occurred in Turn Point/Arachne Reef  in Boundary Pass and Bird Rocks in Rosario Strait. People who find drift cards can report the location where they were found at or call 360-378-2319. The drift card drops are sponsored by Friends of the San Juans, Georgia Straits Alliance and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

More info: Lopez NO COALition, Chom Greacen, 360-468-3189,; Orcas NO COALition, Janet Alderton, 360-376-3905,; San Juan Islanders for Safe Shipping, Shaun Hubbard, 360-378-3586,; FRIENDS of the San Juans, Stephanie Buffum, 360-378-2319

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill:

Oil Spills – General:


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