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A major cultural site identification and protection program in Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska was conducted as part of the Exxon Valdez spill response. In cooperation with state and federal agencies and Native corporations with historic preservation mandates, the four-year program was designed to identify archaeological sites in the area of the spill, determine the effect of planned cleanup on them, and mitigate impacts to sites during cleanup.
Archaeological site protection constraints, augmented by an extensive cultural resource training program, were an integral part of each shoreline-specific cleanup plan. As a result, impacts attributable to the cleanup were limited to minor disturbances and two vandalism incidents. Impacts from oiling were minimal largely because most intertidal cultural sites had lost their fragile constituents and contextual integrity as a result of prespill erosion. State and federal studies confirmed the efficacy of the site identification and protection program, finding negligible impacts attributable to either direct oiling or the cleanup at intact sites.
The Cultural Resource Program also developed innovative management strategies with implications for future emergency responses involving complex land management and site protection issues. The program greatly enhanced the knowledge of the area's history by collecting and synthesizing considerable new archaeological information.
Exxon Valdez, cultural resources, archaeology, historic preservation, archaeological sites, Alutiiq, natives
Chumis Cultural Resource Services, Anchorage, AK
Shoreline Archaeological Services, Inc., Victoria, British Columbia