Gov. Steve Cowper today said Exxon’s response to North America’s worst-ever oil spill was so late and inadequate that authorities are losing hope of cleaning up the mess in once-pristine Prince William Sound.
“Just about all we can do is to act in specific areas. For instance, we’re trying to save the hatchery areas,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Cowper, a Democrat, said it is the oil company’s legal duty to respond first to the spill, “and they didn’t do a good job, to put it charitably.”
“I think clearly in the beginning the response was very poor,” he said. “Then the weather got bad for a day or so. I think now the effort’s being coordinated fairly well, but it’s pretty late.”
Valdez Mayor John Devens said, “I think the hatcheries are savable. I think that’s where the effort has to be placed now. . . . We think we’ve probably lost our herring season. We’re likely to lose a good bit of our salmon season. . . . The value (of) just the fishing season is going to be in excess of $150 million.”
Fishermen in a fleet of small vessels worked with booms, rakes and shovels to save their livelihoods while accusing Exxon of botching the cleanup.
The last-ditch effort concentrated on the southwest portion of the sound. Fishermen said they hope to protect important salmon hatcheries from effects of the spill, which occurred Friday when the Exxon Valdez ran onto a reef and leaked 240,000 barrels of the 1.2 million aboard the tanker.
“There is definitely a sense of hopelessness that can’t be avoided,” said Jack Lamb, acting president of the Cordova District Fishermen United. “Exxon did screw up, no doubt about it. But what we’re trying to do is maintain our focus and get this thing cleaned up.
“Our feelings have to be set aside to get this cleaned up. Then we can start dealing with the companies.”
In Washington today, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater today cited “good cooperation” in the effort to stop the oil slick in Prince William Sound and suggested a federal takeover of the cleanup may not be necessary.
Fitzwater said Transportation Secretary Samuel K. Skinner talked with President Bush from Alaska and reported that “things were more positive than they might have believed.”