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February 18, 2012 --- Vol. 19, No. 14February 2012

NMFS issues IHA for Apache Cook Inlet seismic

The National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, has issued Apache Alaska Corp. with an incidental harassment authorization for the accidental minor disturbance of marine mammals during seismic surveying operations in Alaska’s Cook Inlet in 2013.

In a letter dated Feb. 15 to John Hendrix, Apache’s general manager in Alaska, Helen Golde, NMFS acting director of protected resources, said that the authorization would allow “level B harassment” incidental to marine seismic surveying in the inlet between March 1, 2013, and March 1, 2014.

The authorization stipulates required mitigation measures to avoid marine mammal encounters during survey operations.

Apache is in the process of conducting a multi-year program of 3-D seismic surveys across large areas of the Cook Inlet basin, onshore and offshore, as part of a search for new oil and gas resources in the basin. Annual incidental harassment authorizations form a key component of the permitting required for the surveying. Apache, having previously obtained a NMFS authorization for offshore surveying in 2012, had been expressing concern about the length of time it was taking for NMFS, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, to issue an authorization for 2013.

“While I wish it hadn’t taken this long I am pleased NOAA finally issued the permit,” said Sen. Mark Begich in a press release issued after hearing about the new authorization. “I was just in Anchorage and Homer and heard a lot of concerns about Cook Inlet development and the possible gas shortage in Southcentral in coming years. While Apache’s work is focused on oil exploration there is considerable gas potential as well.”

—Alan Bailey

See story in Feb. 24 issue, available online at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22 at www.PetroleumNews.com

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