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April 30, 2007 --- Vol. 13, No. 38April 2007

Chukchi, North Aleutian in MMS five-year OCS leasing plan

There are eight outer continental shelf Alaska lease sales in the proposed five-year plan released April 30 by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Proposed lease sales in Alaska include: three Chukchi Sea sales (2008, 2010 and 2012); two Beaufort Sea sales (2009 and 2011); two Cook Inlet sales which would be held only if there is industry interest (2009 and 2011); and a North Aleutian basin sale (2011).

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said the entire sale plan includes nearly 180 million acres. “Of these, more than 48 million acres are not currently offered” including more than 8 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico and “more than 37 million acres offshore Alaska of which more than 5 million are in the North Aleutian basin, an area that has not been offered for more than 20 years.”

Minerals Management Service, the Interior agency responsible for outer continental shelf leasing, described the Chukchi in a 2006 scoping report as some 34 million acres, excluding a 15- to 50-mile-wide corridor along the coast.

Kempthorne said the proposed five-year program “sets aside migration corridors for the bowhead whale.” MMS said “the proposed final program removes from leasing consideration a 25-mile buffer area from the coast,” evidently dropping total acreage from the 34 million acres proposed to 32 million acres. He said two sales were originally proposed for the North Aleutian basin and one has been removed from the final sales plan.

MMS said a portion of the North Aleutian basin offered in Sale 92 in 1985 will be offered for leasing as requested by the governor of Alaska and many local and tribal entities.

Only one sale is scheduled in order to have time to complete necessary studies and environmental analyses and reviews, develop appropriate lease stipulations and mitigation and continue “extensive public consultation,” the agency said.

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