Valdez (văldēzˈ) [key], city (1990 pop. 4,068), Valdez-Chitina-Whittier census div., S Alaska, at the head of Valdez Arm inside Prince William Sound; inc. 1901. It has tourist and fishing industries, as well as salmon spawning grounds. The city's excellent, nearly landlocked ice-free harbor was explored and named by the Spaniards in 1790. Valdez was established (1898) as a debarkation point for those seeking a route to the Yukon gold fields that would obviate the necessity of paying duty to Canada. Following a devastating earthquake and tidal wave in 1964, the city was rebuilt at a location 5 mi (8 km) west of the old site. Valdez is the southern terminus of the trans-Alaskan oil pipeline, built in the 1970s, that originates in Prudhoe Bay. Its port facilities were greatly enlarged in the mid-1970s. On Mar. 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez hit a reef near Valdez and spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. Clean-up efforts ensued, but much wildlife was killed or endangered as a result of the environmental disaster.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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