The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Oil tanks from Old Town to be accessed

Historical assessment will be made on famous remnants


What action – if any – should the city take regarding the remnants of the oil tanks from Old Town Valdez made famous by photos of tanks blazing with fire for days after the 1964 earthquake?

“Right now, the tank issue is on hold,” said Lisa Von Bargen, director of the city’s Dept. of Economic Development.

Von Bargen was answering questions asked by the Valdez City Council during its last meeting in August. The tanks– which some people feel have historical value – came to the attention of council after it was asked to approve a contract worth $50,000 to Nordic Village Supply to remove junk from city owned property in the Valdez Industrial Subdivision and Valdez Townsite Pipeyard.

The two areas have been in need of junk abatement. The tanks are in an area under a separate abatement contract with Roger Kipar.

“There was a question of any historic value they might have,” John Hozey, city manager, told council.

City officials will await word from the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) before taking action on removing or preserving the tanks, which officials say are in unsalable condition.

“They look like giant, rusty metal things,” Laura Robertson, the department’s senior planning/GIS technician, told the council.

Robertson said the tanks have long been collapsed and are located behind dense vegetation.

“They’re not recognizable as tanks,” Hozey said.

It was suggested the tanks could be repurposed as art or put on display near the Old Town remnants of the old Post Office foundation. Or used as a tourist attraction at its current location.

Photo courtesy Valdez Museum

The oil drums that burned in old Valdez the aftermath of the 1964 earthquake were moved to a different location in the Old Town area and have collapsed into rust. City officials and concerned citizens are now pondering what to do with the remnants. Some consider the relics junk, others claim the tanks have great historical value.

“They are really quite an adventure to get to,” Robertson said. And dangerous to get to this time of year due to the flora and fauna. “They make pretty good bear hiding places.”

The tanks will remain untouched until the matter winds through the SHPO process.

“He (Kipar) understands we need to take back and look at them,” Von Bargen said.

Bids for the cleanup and abatement for the two areas ranged from $20,000 to $1.2 million. The disparity in the bids was due to the fact the bid specification contained numerous unknowns that made estimating costs difficult for contractors.

Robertson said the $50,000 expenditure, which was later approved by council, would pay an unspecified hourly amount to Nordic Village Supply.


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