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Ten Years after Exxon Valdez disaster CHENEGA BAY Alaska The scientific debate continues over the environmental consequences of what happened just after midnight on Good Friday March 24 1989 when the grounded vessel leaked nearly 11 million gallons of North Slope crude But the disasters effects on people are clear -- and dramatically mixed Some communities and individuals have flourished Others still suffer Some may wither away Alaska Native settlements such as this tiny fishing village tucked in an island cove struggle with damage to culture and loss of population because of the spill losses that cant be measured or mitigated with money Before the accident life in this settlement of 48 revolved around a culture of subsistence Villagers fished hunted and harvested the bounty of a landscape where their people have lived for thousands of years But when the oil hit the bays and beaches of Prince William Sound it disrupted the natural balance Now villagers say the kelp beds where they gathered herring eggs a staple of their traditional diet havent recovered Nor has the population of harbor seals a major source of meat and hides Shellfish which accumulate toxic hydrocarbons from the spilled oil remain suspect even when scientists say many are safe to eat again Just as alarming to this village is the fact that Chenega Bay families are slowly dropping out of the community lured away by jobs in the oil-terminal port of Valdez 90 miles to the northeast Ironically the jobs are with an oil industry team of rescuers and escort vessels created after the spill to prevent future catastrophes The lingering pain of the Exxon Valdez spill also reaches 85 miles east of here to Cordova a picturesque coastal port where commercial fishermen are still reeling from the loss of income and markets after the oil wiped out fish eggs polluted salmon streams and canceled fishing seasons The
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