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Our View: Stan Stephens was good skipper, good steward

Stan Stephens

Good skipper, good steward

Whenever Stan Stephens sent in a Compass piece to the Daily News, editors could be sure they'd have something thoughtful and well worth the readers' time. Stephens wrote with conviction and clarity, particularly on the subjects of oil transportation safety and operations of the trans-Alaska pipeline.

He didn't rant. The tour boat business owner and veteran skipper kept it steady as she goes, even after what he aptly called the nightmare of the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. That disaster in his beloved Prince William Sound made him a passionate guardian of the Sound and its coastlines. He was a firm believer in and one-time president of the Prince William Sound Citizens Advisory Council, a strong proponent of oil spill prevention through redundant systems -- and a consistent voice for maximum cleanup when prevention failed.

Prevention came first, however, for Stephens knew first-hand the futility of doing much cleanup once the oil hit the water. That led to him speak out, for example, against any moves to lessen the presence of tractor tugs or monitoring systems in and out of Valdez. He wasn't about to ease a robust watch based on any risk assessment that calculated probabilities. He'd seen the improbable happen, and had lived and worked in Alaska long enough to know that wisdom dictates you treat the improbable as inevitable and prepare for it, in case you can't prevent it.

That was uncompromising stewardship.

But Stephens was more effective for the fact that he was willing to work with people in the oil industry, local, state and federal officials and anyone else with an interest -- or better yet their hearts -- in the health of Prince William Sound. He gave credit where it was due, and understood that all hands needed to work in good faith to keep the Sound clean and the oil where it belongs.

Though his tour-boat business, knew about bottom lines and making money. He parted ways with some environmentalists over stringent water pollution standards for the cruise industry, which he argued were unreasonably strict and could hurt Alaska tourism, where he made his living.

Stephens was one of those Alaskans who made a life here with his hands, his heart and his head, going all in for his adopted home. He'll be most remembered for his devotion to Prince William Sound, and he'll be remembered by so many, from Alaska and everywhere else on the planet, who took his boats to places they'll never forget.

Our condolences and prayers go to his family and friends, who have a good man to remember and a great legacy to build upon.

BOTTOM LINE: Stan Stephens leaves a fine legacy of care for Alaska. Memorial page, www.keeperofpws.com/index.html