Valdez eyes creation of an oil spill response center

International facility might respond to any incident worldwide

Posted: Monday, May 01, 2000

VALDEZ - City officials, the University of Alaska and the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council are exploring a proposal to create an international oil spill response center in Valdez.

Participants met last week in Valdez to discuss the proposed Global Response Institute.

The proposal includes a laboratory to offer independent testing of oil spill response equipment, expanded technical training through Prince William Sound Community College and the University of Alaska, and perhaps even the creation of Valdez-based teams for instant response to a spill anywhere in the globe.

They could ``go over the top and be anywhere in the world in nine hours,'' Valdez Mayor David Cobb said.

``This is just a planning meeting,'' Cobb told the Valdez Vanguard. ``There's not going to be anything concrete coming out of this other than a mission statement maybe and some goals, and put together a team to advance the idea.''

People involved with the project have been meeting with government, industry and academic officials over the past year. Organizers said last week's planning conference was set at the request of University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton.

Harold Heinze, former president of Arco Alaska Inc. and former commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources, is a consultant to the project.

Heinze said manufacturers and purchasers of oil spill response equipment would pay the Valdez-based laboratory for independent testing. The laboratory would contract with Alyeska's Ship Escort Response Vessel System to participate in the testing as a supplement to its training exercises.

Mark Delozier, the response operations team leader with SERVS, said he was interested in learning more about the idea, but wary of possible regulatory or fiscal implications.

``There are issues, big issues, that need to be worked,'' Delozier said.

Cobb said he has heard representatives of several other nations express an interest in expanding their response capabilities. Valdez is well-situated to fill that global need, he said, with its existing industry and academic resources.

``We could train Alaskans; we could train anybody in the world,'' he said.

The shuttered Harborview Developmental Center has been discussed as a location for the oil spill response center, but the state-owned building may be demolished.

The funding sources for the proposed spill center also have not been identified, but Heinze expressed confidence that money could be found if the project is well-developed.

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