An oil and gas lease sale proposed at Lower Cook Inlet includes nine blocks covering over one million acres of seafloor.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) opened a public comment period at the end of October for its draft environmental impact statement for waters widely used by sport and commercial fishermen.
“I’ve certainly had friends visit and we go on a halibut charter and that’s the exact area that I’ve taken my friends out to. I think everybody is impacted by this. And so all of us that are dip netting or fishing for salmon in the summertime could be impacted by these decisions. Not just one user group, everybody should be chiming in.”
Liz Mering is an Advocacy Specialist at Cook Inletkeeper.
The proposed waters are located off the mouth of Kachemak Bay’s Critical Habitat Area created by the Alaska Legislature when it bought back oil and gas leases there in the 1970s.
“This is a very pristine area that hasn’t had this development where fisheries are still very active and that everything is very much being used for tourism – , people traveling to Katmai as well as for fisheries. Our sport and our commercial fisheries for halibut are very much in that area, Pacific Cod is very much in that area. And so you’d have gear conflicts, as well as the impacts if or when there’s an oil spill.”
The ocean currents would carry an oil spill southward towards Katmai, Lake Clark and down to Kodiak waters.
If lease sale 258 goes through, Mering predicts decades of conflicts in a region known for big water, strong tides, sea ice and earthquakes.
“I think the fishing conflicts would be insane. We’re talking these large blocks where you’d see increased boating traffic, increased tanker traffic, underwater pipelines, seismic testing, big platforms, all of the things that are associated with having oil and gas and lasting at least 40 years. The proposed timeline is 40 years in the development and production process.”
In just a few days over 1,500 people already have signed a petition asking that lease sale 258be canceled and for permanent protections at Lower Cook Inlet.
The Bureau will hold three public hearings on November 16, 17 and 18 where comments will be taken. Written comments can be submitted through December 13. Mering says now is the time to weigh in.
At any time until the close of the comment period, written comments may be submitted. Simply go to Regulations.gov, the U.S. Government’s official commenting portal, and click on the button on the upper left titled “Comment.”
Oral comments may be submitted via any of three virtual public hearings, scheduled for the following dates (all times Alaska time):
- Tue, Nov. 16 – 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Registration Link: https://bsee-gov.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_9et6iJL4Q9q9FRZKbMqiZw
- Wed, Nov. 17 – 2pm to 4pm
Registration Link: https://bsee-gov.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_3vJad_ysQyS-5Kvv60PxCQ
- Thu, Nov. 18 – 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Registration Link: https://bsee-gov.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_Fq9ilH6TR_-MqJMI_q9mxw