The Minerals Management Service (MMS) in February plans to hold the first oil and natural gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore Alaska in 17 years, a region estimated to hold 15 bbl of oil and 76 Tcf of gas.

The proposed area in Chukchi Sea Sale 193, published in the Federal Register on Aug. 3, is located north of Point Barrow, AK, to northwest of Cape Lisburne, AK. It contains about 29 million acres in waters 95-262 feet deep.

The sale area extends from about 25-200 miles offshore. Excluded are nearshore waters extending 25-50 miles from the coast, which includes the near-shore "polynya" through which bowhead whales, beluga whales, other marine mammals and marine birds migrate north in the spring, and in which local communities subsistence hunt.

All leases will be subject to existing MMS regulations that include extensive requirements for safety, drilling operations and pollution prevention, plus regulations of other agencies covering marine mammals, endangered species, and air and water quality.

In addition, MMS proposes stipulations to address environmental effects that may occur because of exploration and development of the area's oil and gas resources. These stipulations call for protection of biological resources, including protected marine mammals and eiders, use of pipelines rather than tankers, and methods to minimize interference with subsistence whaling and other subsistence harvesting activities.

Two sales previously were held in the Chukchi Sea Planning Area. Sale 109 was held in 1988 with 350 leases issued. Sale 126 was held in 1991 with 28 leases issued. All of the leases have expired.

To request a copy of the Proposed Notice of Sale or the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), contact MMS, Alaska OCS Region, 3801 Centerpoint Dr. Suite 500, Anchorage, AK 99503. Information also may be obtained by calling (800) 764-2627, or via emails to akwebmaster@mms.gov. The Proposed Notice and the Final EIS are available at: www.mms.gov/alaska.

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