The following article appears in the Summer 2010 issue of Nature Conservancy Magazine
Digital Tool Helps Oil-Spill Responders Protect Alaska’s Coast
In January 2009, fierce winds in southeastern Alaska tore loose a 181-foot ferry from a pier. The ferry ran aground on a small island, and the Coast Guard and volunteers headed to the scene to limit damage from a possible fuel spill. Before they arrived, the responders knew which sensitive tidelands and critical fisheries habitats were threatened, thanks to a set of new high-tech digital maps that provide a bird’s-eye view of Alaska’s coast.
The mapping project, Alaska ShoreZone, currently covers 17,000 miles of the state’s roughly 47,000-mile coastline, including areas such as Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound—the site of the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. More than 30 organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and state and tribal agencies, have worked together on the program since 2001, sharing $5.5 million in funds and plenty of expertise. Continue reading