Transportation & Infrastructure
The Cook Inlet watershed is laced with an aging oil and gas infrastructure which includes 16 offshore oil and gas platforms, several onshore wells, over 1,000 miles of oil/gas pipelines, a refinery, an LNG plant, and a major petrochemical facility. Aging pipelines routinely leak oil and other contaminants into Cook Inlet’s fisheries. Every year since 2002, Inletkeeper has released an important report highlighting the deficiencies in Cook Inlet pipeline oversight, which has greatly reduced pipeline leaks and spills over the past 4 years.
In addition to pipeline spills, Cook Inlet faces threats from oil tanker spills. Cook Inlet remains the only major port in North America that lacks tug escorts for laden tankers, despite the region’s notorious tides, ice and navigational conditions. In February 2006, the tanker Seabulk Pride ran aground in Cook Inlet’s richest salmon and beluga whale habitat. While the double hull tanker was fortuitously pulled off the beach without leaking its 5 million gallon cargo, the incident cracked the vessel’s hull and highlighted major shortcomings in Cook Inlet spill response capabilities. Accordingly, there is an unprecedented window of opportunity to press for powerful tug boats to ensure tankers retain their cargo, in a region still recovering from the devastating effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Additionally, routine tankers discharges introduce invasive species into Cook Inlet, which have the potential to out-compete native species and alter the marine ecosystem. Over a dozen invasive species have been identified in Kachemak Bay in the past two years, and ballast water from oil tankers is a prime suspect.