Prudhoe discovery well on national historic register

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The discovery well for the Prudhoe Bay oil field has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1967-68 well drilled by Atlantic Richfield Co., which started the state's greatest economic boom, was granted historic status late month by the National Park Service.

The listing was applauded by state history buffs and denounced by environmentalists.

''We found a lot of support at all levels for this nomination,'' said Jim Short, senior permit coordinator at BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. ''People were very excited about it.''

Short, until recently an Arco employee, began the nomination process while trying to acquire permits to allow tourist access to the well site.

Backing the nomination were the Alaska Historical Commission and the Inupiat History, Language and Culture Commission in Barrow. The well was listed on the national register on March 23.

''Its recognition is long overdue,'' said state historian Jo Antonson. ''The (oil) discovery fields in Pennsylvania, Texas and California have all been designated.''

While environmentalists didn't question the site's historical value, they questioned the listing's message.

''We in Alaska are honoring a place that has 60 toxic waste sites, an oil spill a day, 1,800 miles of industrial development when you add up all the pipelines, a web of roads, waste treatment facilities and landfills,'' said Deb Moore, director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center in Fairbanks. ''This is not a place that should be honored as a historic site.''

Pamela Miller, director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics in Anchorage, added, ''We don't need a monument to big oil, that's for sure.''

There is a monument of sorts on the site now. Arco put up a marker in the shape of the company's logo made out of the same kind of 16-inch pipe used to drill the oil wells, Short said.

Other than that, not much remains of the discovery well. Drilling pipe still sticks out of the ground, but most of the equipment and even the gravel pad have been removed.

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