Trans Alaska Pipeline (TAPS)

The Trans Alaska Pipeline (TAPS) was completed in 1977 after land claims settlements opened the way for construction. Currently, 20% of the pipeline transects the Copper River basin. The pipeline is 800 miles long, took three years and two months to build and cost $8 billion dollars. TAPS is one of the world’s largest pipeline systems and since 1977, 16 billion barrels of oil have been processed. TAPS crosses five major salmon spawning tributaries of the Copper River. TAPS crosses three mountain ranges, three major earthquake faults and greater than 500 rivers and streams. There are 550 crossing areas for caribou, moose and other wildlife. On average, TAPS has transported 459,376 barrels per day. TAPS carries approximately 15% of the nation’s domestic oil production. The timeline and achievements from discovery in 1968 to 2009 has been documented. 

There is an effort underway to form the TAPS Citizen’s Oversight Committee. This committee would provide safety and environmental benefits for all of TAPS not just the terminal operations. The initial focus of the committee would be on the lower 1/5 of the pipeline. An oil spill scenario map has been created to look at how long it would take oil to reach tributaries of the Copper River and the Copper River mainstem if something happens along the pipeline. See TAPS oil spill map below.

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizen Advisory Council (PWSRCAC) currently oversees the terminal operations and the Prince William Sound Tanker Spill Prevention and Response Plan. The PWSRCAC is responsible for oil transportation safety. PWSRCAC keeps scientific experts on hand to conduct independent research related to oil tranportation safety. The council’s structure is based on a contract with the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company as well as the guiding principles of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

© 2011 Copper River Knowledge System