In the spring of 1976 Governor Hammonds bill to buy-back the Kachemak Bay oil leases and prevent drilling there was doomed in the state legislature. Then on May 5th the drill rig George Ferris became stuck deep in the mud of where it was anchored in Mud Bay. The incoming tide swamped the rig and an oil spill resulted just as the annual migration of shorebirds was arriving. All efforts to contain the spill failed and the fiasco became headline news in the local as well as Anchorage papers. Two days later the legislature resurrected and then amended Hammonds bill to contain everything he wanted including creation of a Marine Sanctuary as well as buy-back and condemnation of the oil leases. Hammond signed the bill, the leases were then bought back, the bay was saved, and the history of Homer and Kachemak Bay was changed forever.
This was an important chapter in Alaska’s history and the full story is documented in the book Fish, Oil and Follies. Copies of this book have been donated to Cook Inlet Keeper in Homer for their spring fundraiser. If you are interested in reading more of the story and are headed down to Homer for the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival (May 12-15) you may want to contact them for a copy. And as you look out across the Mud Bay flats for the amazing collection of spring shorebirds give thanks to Governor Hammond and to the fishermen and other concerned citizens of Homer who fought to save the bay from oil development. Finally, remember the George Ferris for dealing the final blow to what was an ill planned and poorly executed scheme to drill for oil in one of the world’s most diverse and richest marine environments.