Cook Inlet lease sale under consideration

A draft environmental impact statement analyzing possible impacts of a potential oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet has been completed and federal officials are accepting public comment on the document through Sept. 6.

The area is recognized for commercial harvests of Pacific salmon and halibut, subsistence activities, and its sea otter and beluga whale populations. The draft EIS identifies robust mitigation measures to be considered in leasing the area, and analyzes a range of alternatives to be considered for leasing.

The notice of availability of the draft EIS was scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on July 22, opening the 45-day public comment period, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said on July 15, in an announcement from Anchorage.

BOEM has also scheduled public meetings in Anchorage on Aug. 15, in Homer on Aug. 17, and in Kenai on Aug. 18.

The draft EIS and directions for providing public comments online are available at

The lease sale is current scheduled for June 2017.


BOEM officials said that publication of the draft EIS does not mean the decision has been made to hold the lease sale. Once the EIS is finalized, the Interior Department will use those finding in considering whether to hold the lease sale.

Abigail Ross Hopper, BOEM’s director said that while Cook Inlet has oil and gas potential, the area also has sensitive marine and coastal resources that Alaska Native communities depend on for subsistence. The agency is looking forward to discussing the draft EIS with the public and representatives from Cook Inlet communities, and getting meaningful feedback, she said.

In March 2012, BOEM issued a request for information from the industry to determine interest in oil and gas exploration in federal submerged lands of Cook Inlet. In November 2013, BOEM identified areas for potential leasing as part of Lease Sale 244. BOEM then used scientific information and stakeholder feedback to proactively determine which parts of the planning area would be carried forward for environmental analysis, focusing on those specific areas with greatest resource potential and industry interest, while reducing potential conflicts with environmental and subsistence considerations, the agency said.

The area identified for the potential lease sale is close to existing leases in Cook Inlet’s state waters avoids nearly all of the areas designated as critical habitat for the beluga whale and the northern sea otter, avoids critical habitat for Stellar sea lions, and excludes much of the subsistence use area for the Native villages of Nanwalek, Port Graham and Seldovia, as requested by those communities, BOEM said.