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NMFS and MMS Notice PEIS for Alaskan Seismic Operations
On November 17, 2006, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Minerals Management Service published Federal Register notice of their intent to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement of
"the impacts of MMS' annual authorizations under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to the U.S. oil and gas industry to conduct offshore geophysical seismic surveys in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska, and NMFS' authorizations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to incidentally harass marine mammals while conducting these surveys."
The NMFS and MMS explain in their notice that in September, 2006, a federal court stayed parts of NMFS' Incidental Hazard Authorization for ConocoPhillips seismic operations. In particular, the court stayed agency-required mitigation measures based on a possible harm level of 120 dB rms for fall migrating cow/calf pairs of bowhead whales in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. The court held that the record did not support a possible harm level as low as 120 dB.
The MMS' previous PEA for these areas had used a 120 dB level also. In light of the court's decision, and for other reasons stated in the agencies' Federal Register notice, NMFS and MMS have decided to prepare a full EIS for these action and activities.
The NMFS and MMS request public comments on the scope of the EIS by December 18, 2006.
Click to read Federal Register notice