Homer residents get up close look at oil spill response training

If Homer residents have ever wondered just what a bunch of fishing vessels are doing roaming around Kachemak Bay every spring with brightly colored equipment, they’ll get the chance to see it firsthand every six years. The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council sponsored Homer’s first public tour of annual oil spill response training in the bay on Saturday.

From two boats — the Discovery and the Rainbow Connection — residents, high school students and local officials got an up close view of exactly what local fishermen have to do each year to prepare to respond to an oil spill in Prince William Sound. Alyeska Pipeline, which was a partner in Saturday’s tour along with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and Alaska Coastal Marine, contracts with about 450 vessels and 1,800-2,000 fishermen to do annual training through the Vessel of Opportunity Program.

The program began in 1991 and provides fishermen with the necessary equipment. They train for 3-4 days altogether, which culminates in heading out on the water to practice their physical response, said Kate Dugan, Alyeska’s community and public relations manager out of Valdez.

RCAC only began letting the public in on this process three years ago, and the organization is making its way through each port where the program is located. Each location — Homer, Kodiak, Cordova, Whittier, Seward and Valdez — will rotate being the site of the public tour each year. This is the first year for Homer.

“Our whole goal is to....

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