Oil spill officials have released a plan that calls for spending $42 million to lock up land they may eventually want to buy and to continue studying the effects of oil on murres, mussels, salmon and whales. The money comes from the $900 million that Exxon paid a year ago to settle lawsuits filed by the state and federal governments. The settlement calls for the Oil Spill Trustee Council to use the money for restoring areas damaged when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound more than three years ago.
More than $200 million of the settlement has been spent or committed. The settlement stated that Alaska and the federal government should be reimbursed up to $142 million for past cleanup work, and that Exxon should be reimbursed for last summer's cleanup work, which is expected to cost $40 to $50 million. The council spent $18 million last summer on studies.
That means roughly $650 million will be left to spend on the final restoration plan, which is expected to be completed by next spring. More than 600 ideas on how to spend the money were submitted last summer by scientists, citizens, government workers and environmentalists.
Trustee Council members will vote on the $42 million plan Dec. 11. It is considered an interim measure until the final restoration plan is completed.
The proposed plan for next summer includes spending:
* Up to $20 million to protect land that the council may want to purchase later in the final restoration plan.
* Up to $3.6 million to increase trout and salmon production at the Fort Richardson hatchery. The fish would be stocked in a variety of rivers with the idea of reducing the number of anglers on the Kenai River.
* Up to $3.6 million to restore and study Kenai River and Kodiak Island red salmon, Prince William Sound pink salmon, and salmon habitat at Chenega, Montague Island and Afognak Island.
* Up to $1.2 million on archaeology in the spill area. A total of 112 archaeological sites were damaged by the oil spill cleanup or by vandalism tied to the cleanup. The projects include assessing full damage, setting up a stewardship program and creating a public awareness program.
* Up to $1.2 million on studying mussel beds, harlequin ducks and black oystercatchers, a shore bird. Scientists believe the harlequin ducks and black oystercatchers, which are still suffering from low reproduction rates, feed on the mussel beds, which continue to be heavily contaminated with oil.
* Up to $337,800 to reduce disturbance at some of the main murre colonies, including Puale Bay, the Barren Islands and the Chiswell Islands, and to use dummy eggs and decoys to enhance the breeding success of murres. Murres were the birds hardest hit by the spill and have not been breeding and nesting the same since.
* Up to $127,000 to study the recovery rate of killer whales in the Sound. Studies of one pod, the AB pod, found that seven of its 36 whales were missing a week after the spill and another six were missing a year later. Scientists believe there are nearly 300 killer whales living in the Sound in 19 different pods.
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