Members of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council have approved the merger of two separate accounts of federal funds for habitat protection and research related to the 1989 disaster in Prince William Sound for fiscal years 2023 through 2026.
The council, on Oct. 5, also approved its general operating budget for that time period. It includes funding for long-term research and monitoring integrated program management, a killer whale monitoring project and the reappointment of Shiway Wang as executive director.
At the meeting, the council presented its Delta Plan, which would offer several alternatives to ensure funding for all projects funded by the council’s research subaccount for the first five years, running from fiscal year 2022 through fiscal year 2026.
A recording of the meeting is online at https://evostc.state.ak.us/media/7778/gmt20221005-171353_recording.m4a.
The public comment period on the Delta Plan opened on Oct. 7 and runs through Nov 7. Information on the Delta Plan and how to submit written public comment is on the Delta Plan webpage.
Submit comments to the council via https://evostc.commentinput.com/comment/search.
The Delta Plan and public comments will be reviewed at the council’s next Public Advisory Committee meeting, set for Nov. 29 on the Zoom conferencing platform.
The continuation of the council’s Oct. 5 meeting is tentatively set for Nov. 30.
The council noted on the Delta Plan page of its website that due to restrictions on subaccounts and the recent decline in the stock market that research funds are predicted to be insufficient to support projects in the last fiscal year 2025.
Annual funding is always dependent on net asset values of subaccounts, and funding past fiscal year 2027 is uncertain at this time, the council said. Given that, the Delta Plan would offer alternatives to ensure that project funds are available through fiscal year 2026, the council said.
A list of 50 projects currently supported by the research subaccount is on the Delta Plan page on the council’s website. The list ranges from stock assessments of Prince William Sound herring and long-term killer whale monitoring in Prince William Sound/Kenai Fjords to kelp mariculture development for habitat restoration and the local economy.
A summary of Delta Plan alternatives includes three alternatives under consideration.
Alternative Orange calls for components of previously approved projects totaling $13.5 million to be funded from the habitat subaccount instead of the research sub-accounting.
Alternative Purple would allow for funding decisions made at the council’s October 2021 and January 2022 meetings to be revisited in collaboration with the public and the council’s advisory panel in order to reduce funding awards from the research subaccount.
Alternative Green would require selecting one of the options to implement Alternative Orange and allow the reallocation of habitat subaccount funds to support project components through fiscal year 2026.