Opinion

Commentary: As oil continues to foul Gulf, Alaskans help as they can

After the deadly explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaskans were swift to offer whatever help and expertise they could.

No small part of that has been a visit by fishermen who experienced the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, sponsored by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.

Joe Banta, now project manager for environmental monitoring for the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, and Torie Baker, a fisheries specialist with Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Services, spoke at a forum in Mobile, Ala.

They told about prevention and response measures in place now -- tractor tugs for tanker escort, a fleet of 300 vessels with crews trained to lay boom and skim oil, a high standard of readiness that has strong support across Alaska's political spectrum.

But they also spoke about how the Gulf spill is going to hit communities over the next few months and years. They came with a book -- the advisory council's "Coping with Technological Disasters Guidebook," a collection of hard-earned lessons compiled by many contributors and written by Tim Jones.

The guidebook deals with the long reach of a huge oil spill and its aftermath in individual and family lives -- friendships broken, business disrupted, livelihoods lost, increases in alcohol and drug use, domestic violence and suicide.

Communities can break apart over cleanup jobs and settlement offers; what was not just a living but a way of life is suddenly gone, leaving people frustrated, angry and adrift.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.adn.com.

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