At 12:04 am on March 24, 1989 the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef off Prince William Sound resulting in one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history. Approximately 11 million gallons were spilled covering an area of 460 miles from Bligh Reef to the village of Chignik, impacting 1,300 miles of Alaskan coastline and killing countless animals (with estimates as high as 250,000 seabirds alone) and billions of salmon and herring eggs.¹
The above images come from a collection of over 2,000 slides from the Office of the Governor, SR612 Press Secretary, Public Information Files (AS 17959). You can view more images from this group by visiting Alaska’s Digital Archives at vilda.alaska.edu or by clicking HERE.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) had a huge impact on multiple state agencies in Alaska. The records created by those agencies as they dealt with the impact of the spill hold a wealth information related to this event and how it impacted government, and in turn citizens. You can access these records at the Alaska State Archives in agencies such as the Office of the Governor, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.
Among them you’ll find textual records such as reports and minutes, photographs, video and audio records, and maps. Below are a few examples of records relating to the Exxon Valdez oil spill held in the Alaska State Archives:
- Dept. of Administration, RG84 – Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Commission, 1989-1990
- Dept. of Fish and Game, RG261 – Division of Habitat and Restoration, SR621 – Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) files, 1989-1994
- Dept. of Fish and Game, RG261 – Division of Habitat and Restoration, SR1290 – Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) restoration project files, 1989-1998
- Dept. of Environmental Conservation, RG299 – Division of Spill Prevention and Response (SPAR)
- Dept. of Environmental Conservation, RG297 – Division of Environmental Quality, SR563 – Subject files, 1989 – Daily Reports, Coast Guard Exxon Valdez spill fact sheet, EVOS daily status reports
- Dept. of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, RG21 – Commissioner of the community and Regional Affairs, 1975-1999, SR1336 – Exxon Valdez oil spill records
- Dept. of Environmental Conservation, RG295 – Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, SR1363 – Speeches, 1990-1992
- Office of the Governor, RG1 – Executive Office, SR88 – Central Subject files – Exxon Valdez Files of Mike Nizich, Governor Cowper’s Administrative Services Director March – May
However the bulk of records created in response to EVOS were created by the Department of Law, Series 708 Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) litigation, 1969-1993.² To learn more about these records and the Archive’s involvement in appraising and processing the materials in this collection visit the Archive’s webpage, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation Records Appraisal and Processing Project. Currently the Archives is negotiating with the Department of Law to transfer the remaining litigation files of permanent value, referred to as the Reopener files, to the Archives. These files were not among those in the original transfer due to the possibility that the materials might need to be used again in the event that a Reopener Claim was made. The 1991 settlement between the State of Alaska, United States and Exxon included a decree entitled “Reopener for Unknown Injury” which could allow the governments to make an additional claim for unforeseen damages that were not covered in the original settlement. While actions were taken in 2006, the governments ultimately decided not to pursue the claim in 2015, allowing for the final transfer of records to the Archives.
For additional resources and information outside the Alaska State Archives, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC) website at www.evostc.state.ak.us is a great place to start your research. The EVOSTC is a joint partnership between the federal and state governments “formed to oversee restoration of the injured ecosystem”. The EVOSTC website offers multiple resources on the spill from their Oil Spill Facts page, to publications including some of the council’s historical records (stored at ARLIS), to the current status of restoration projects.
If you’re interested in reviewing any of the Archive’s EVOS materials, or would like to know more about what we have, you can shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call at (907) 465-2270, or just drop in! We’re located on the second floor of the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building located at 395 Whittier Street, Juneau, AK 99801.
- “Oil Spill Facts.”, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/index.cfm?FA=facts.QA. Accessed 22 March 2018.
- Records in Series 708, Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) litigation, 1969-1993 are restricted. If you’d like to include these materials in your research we will refer your request to the Department of Law for approval before we can release the records for review.