Feds including Inlet, Shelikof waters in new leasing plan

Posted: Thursday, January 11, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- All federal waters in Cook Inlet and Shelikof Strait are back on the table as the Minerals Management Service writes its new five-year plan for oil and gas lease sales.

Robin Lee Cacy, public affairs officer for the federal Minerals Management Service in Anchorage, said that's what the law requires -- despite five years of controversy that led the agency to cut its last Cook Inlet-Shelikof sale from the original 3.7-million-acre proposal to 430,000 acres.

Planning for the sale began in 1992.

The Minerals Management Service originally had included areas from the Shelikof Strait to Kalgin Island. But it eventually dropped Shelikof Strait, Kamishak Bay and more.

The final 1997 offering included only federal holdings from Kalgin Island to a line just north of Anchor Point.

''Right now, we're starting all over, so what will be (available) now is the entire planning area of Cook Inlet, because that's what we're required to do under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act,'' Cacy told the Peninsula Clarion.

The five-year plan will lay out the agency's oil and gas leasing plans for offshore areas on the Gulf of Mexico, the East and West coasts and Alaska.

The plan will cover lease sales scheduled from 2002 to 2007.

The process will require taking public comments, writing a proposed draft, then refining that before seeking approval from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Any plan also must include an Environmental Impact Statement.

Fifteen planning areas lie off Alaska, including Cook Inlet-Shelikof Strait, the Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak, the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea.

A presidential proclamation placed Bristol Bay off-limits to oil and gas leasing until June 30, 2012, Cacy said.

Cacy said she expects the agency will plan lease sales for Cook Inlet, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and perhaps also for the Gulf of Alaska.

''There will probably be five sales in areas where people are fairly confident there is some gas or oil,'' Cacy said.

The last OCS leasing plan covered the period from July 1997 to July 2002.

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