President Bush is apparently against a federal takeover of the cleanup of Alaska's oil-polluted Prince William Sound.
Meanwhile, a Utah State University professor who is on the Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Advisory Board, said it will take years, possibly a decade, for Prince William Sound to rebound from the spill."The problem with a spill in the Alaskan area is the cold water. Areas like Santa Barbara, Calif., have periods of warm weather when recovery can be rapid. The northern areas will take longer," said John Neuhold, assistant dean of the USU Natural Resources College.
Along the Alaskan shore, he said, clams, crabs, and other plants and animals "will be hit hard and marine animals depending on those organisms will certainly suffer from the diminished food source."
"Seals may not be particularly affected by loss of insulation from an oil coating, since they have a thick fat layer. But sea otters will, in all probability, be hit hard," he said.
In Washington Coast Guard Commandant Paul Yost, after meeting with Bush, said it was "almost unbelievable" that the supertanker Exxon Valdez could have gotten outside a 10-mile wide shipping lane to run aground last Friday.
"Obviously something went very badly wrong," Yost told a White House news briefing after he and two other senior officials met with President Bush after a two-day fact-finding trip to the site of the nation's largest oil spill.
"This was not a treacherous area, not treacherous in the area where they ran aground," the admiral told reporters. "It's 10 miles wide. Your children could drive a tanker up through it."
Yost said that allegations of "alchohol use" by the ship's captain would be thoroughly investigated by the government. (See related story on A2.)
Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner, who also met with Bush, said cleanup operations were now being well coordinated. "All of us are convinced that the effort, after a somewhat slow start, is going at full speed," Skinner said.
He said there was "no need to federalize this effort" and that such a move "might be counterproductive."
Although Bush earlier had mentioned a federal takeover as an option, press secretary Marlin Fitzwater told reporters Wednesday, "I would guide you a little bit away from that."
"I think the preliminary feeling is that the resources are there on the job . . . . So we would not rush into that step quickly," Fitzwater said.
The fast-moving oil slick covered more than 500 square miles. The largest oil spill in the nation's history was caused when the tanker ran aground on a reef March 24, spilling more than 10 million gallons of crude oil into the environmentally sensitive sound.
The three U.S. officials, who flew by helicopter over the oil-stained beaches, were to give their report directly to the president.
That report will also be used in a determination of whether the government should declare Prince William Sound a federal disaster area.