What’s wrong with the current EVOS Trust structure?

Chugach believes that the current structure for administering EVOS is expensive, inconsistent, bureaucratic and lacks transparency. We believe the Trustee Council can, and should, do better.

The Think Tank’s proposal is just one of many possible alternatives to the current model. By moving to an endowment model (similar to a private university or foundation), The Think Tank approach extends the lifetime of the remaining funds while also reducing administrative fees. As such, those funds would be preserved in perpetuity to support efforts to mitigate long-term impacts in the spill-impacted area.

The members of the EVOS Trustee Council briefly considered the proposal, but entrenched in their bureaucracies, they dismissed it with less than 10 minutes of consideration during a formal vote at their October meeting and without exploring meaningful public input from those in the spill impacted communities.

How has the EVOS Trustee Council activity impacted Chugach?

It has been 30 years since the EVOS, which devastated the Chugach region and communities. After the spill, the EVOS Trustee Council chose not to spend Exxon “damage reparations funds” to help Chugach villages and residents recover from the spill. Instead, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire surface estate lands from most of the Chugach Region’s Village Corporations – who were in dire economic straits because of the spill – placing those purchased lands into state or federal ownership.

Unfortunately, as a result of EVOS purchases in the name of “habitat protection” to mitigate the oil spill, 243,000 acres of Chugach subsurface estate, now lies under federal or state surface estate. This makes development of Chugach’s subsurface rights in those areas extremely difficult and controversial. and as we start to pursue development opportunities on our lands, the split estate with Federal land ownership and conservation easements creates conflicts. It requires a longer and more extensive permitting process and becomes more expensive because of the EVOS management requirements and covenants.

That’s also why passage of the Chugach Lands Study Act (part of the Conservation, Management and Recreation Act) is such a significant milestone for the corporation, as it opens the door to a potential land exchange opportunity for Chugach.

How can I help?

We encourage all Alaskans to voice their concerns with the EVOS Trustee Council now. The public is invited to submit their comments online through December 16, 2020, 11:59 p.m. AST.

You can read more about the four proposed resolutions and voice your concerns here.

How has Chugach been impacted by the oil spill?

Chugach, our communities in the Chugach Region, and our lands were among those most devastated by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Chugach’s communities include, Port Graham, Nanwalek, Seward, Cordova, Tatitlek, Chenega, and Valdez, and are all within the Spill Affected Area.

The oil spill devastated the Chugach region and communities by:

  • Damaging our traditional and subsistence way of life;
  • Crippling our local economies, including commercial fishing, hunting, gathering, and tourism; and
  • Causing irreparable and lasting damage to our lands and the resources that depend on those lands.

We are resilient people and in the 31 years since the oil spill we have taken steps to rebuild our communities, but the resources and services in the Chugach region have never fully recovered.

What is The Think Tank’s proposed alternative?

The Think Tank’s proposed plan is just one of many viable alternatives to the current EVOS Trust model. The New Vision for EVOS proposal outlines how the remaining monies could be used more efficiently if they are transferred to the Alaska Community Foundation (ACF), an organization better equipped to manage and distribute these resources than the current administration. This new method of disbursement would also reduce administrative costs from nearly half of every dollar to just 7 cents . That means significantly more funding available to direct to communities and research. That also means benefits in perpetuity when managed correctly as opposed to the current spend down plan.

The New Vision for EVOS proposal supports the following key concepts:

  • Establish permanent endowments for four critical entities providing scientific research, cultural preservation, and human services within the spill impacted region, specifically: the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, the Prince William Sound Science Center in Cordova, the Alutiiq Museum, and the Chugach Heritage Foundation.
  • With the remaining funds, establish a competitive and transparent grant program for all oil-spill impacted communities, with grant decisions recommended by a panel of regional leaders. Also establish an Ocean Research fund to support local and regional research studies long-term.

Why does Chugach oppose the four draft resolutions?

The four resolutions proposed by the EVOS Trustee Council are out for a 60-day public comment period. If approved, these resolutions would advance the EVOS Trustee Council’s agenda to spend down the funds by eliminating the annual Trustee Council public meeting and funding process, another by allowing the Trustee Council to approve multi-year projects, a third to combine the habitat and research sub-accounts and a fourth to amend the 1994 Restoration Plan to incorporation an ecosystem approach to the oil spill boundary, which would allow projects to be funded outside of the spill boundary.

You can read more about the resolutions and voice your concerns here.

What is the EVOS Trust and Trustee Council?

The 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) discharged approximately 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. The oil spill affected the land, water, and wildlife and had a devastating effect on the people of the Chugach region who rely on and value those natural resources for economic, aesthetic and subsistence use.

In the wake of the spill, a portion of Exxon’s punitive damages included a $900 million settlement paid to the state and federal government. The EVOS Trustee Council, comprised of three state and three federal representatives, was formed in 1991 to oversee the settlement for the purposes of restoring the spill area’s injured ecosystem, including the human services that were impacted by the spill.

Prior to making expenditure decisions, the Trustee Council must consider input from the Public Advisory Committee, and the Federal trustees must obtain consent from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Despite the Council’s clear mandate to restore spill-affected areas (which has not been accomplished), the Trustee Council has embarked on plans to “spend down” the entire remainder of the funds and dissolve the Trustee Council.