The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied a request by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for additional review and a change to the pipeline route for BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.'s Northstar development in the Beaufort Sea.
In an April 29 letter, Assistant Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal told Donald Barry, the Department of the Interior's Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, that the Alaska district of the Corps of Engineers will be allowed to proceed with issuance of the permit.
Pat Richardson, spokeswoman for the Corps of Engineers Alaska district, told PNA April 30 that the Northstar permit will be issued the week of May 3-7, perhaps as early as Monday.
The Department of the Interior and the Corps of Engineers have a memorandum of agreement that was the basis for the request for review. Westphal told Barry that a review was done of the district's decision documents and draft permit, information provided by the state of Alaska and information from BP and also included information from meetings and follow-up conference calls.
Westphal said that while the nearshore area of the Beaufort Sea, particularly Gwydyr Bay and Simpson Lagoon "may qualify as an aquatic resource of national importance, we disagree that substantial and unacceptable adverse impacts to the aquatic environment will result" from the decision to issue the permit for alternative No. 2, BP's proposed route. The corps concluded that alternative No. 2, "will have less overall environmental effect on the aquatic ecosystem" than proposed alternatives. Westphal also noted that 24 special conditions are part of the Corps of Engineers permit and that state approvals include 146 specific stipulations.