Offshore Areas Described With PM-Offshore Drilling Bjt
Apr. 28, 1987
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Here is a description of the offshore areas affected by the Interior Department's five-year plan drilling announced Monday.
Under the law, the department may drop more acreage as lease sales approach, but it may not add any new areas. Forty-six percent of the 1.4 billion acres eligible for inclusion in the plan have now been ruled out of bounds.
In the Atlantic north of Key Largo, Fla., a buffer zone of 15 to 30 nautical miles is incorporated seaward of the boundary between federal and state waters. This boundary is three nautical miles off all states but Florida and Texas, which had 10-mile boundary limits before they joined the Union.
Because of discouraging prospects, the entire Gulf of Maine and areas around Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket off Massachusetts were dropped.
But part of Georges Bank, a prime fishing ground off Cape Cod, will be offered. The state of Massachusetts vigorously objects to leasing on the bank.
The wreck of the Civil War warship Monitor will be protected off Cape Hatteras, N.C., as will Gray's Reef off Sapela Island, Ga.
Wallops Island, Va., where the National Aeronautics and Space Administration maintains a test station, will have a protected area off its shores. Cape Canaveral, Fla., will have a large area. A potentially interesting area for oil companies off Cape Canaveral may not be leased without NASA's agreement.
Except for that area and a small slice off Jacksonsville, nothing will be offered off the East Coast of Florida north of Key Largo. Off Florida's Gulf Coast, a 15-to-30-nautical-mile buffer zone will extend from Naples to Apalachiola.
A similar area south of Naples and from Apalachiola to Panama City will be held back in a late 1988 lease sale, but not after that, and a joint federal- state group will study environmental data from the Keys before they may be leased.
There will be protective zones around Key Largo and Looe Key. Florida Gov. Bob Martinez had asked that all areas south of 26 degrees north latitude, including the Keys, be ruled off limits.
The Seagrass Beds and Florida Middle Ground in the eastern Gulf also will be barred from exploration, as will the Flower Garden Banks in the western Gulf.
In the Pacific Ocean, waters deeper than 2,953 feet (900 meters) generally will be closed to drilling.
There is little change from the complicated California provisions released last month, which the department says bar drilling in about 75 percent of the state's offshore acreage and give about 60 percent of the state's coastline some buffering area.
At the request of Gov. George Deukmejian, six-mile buffer zones were added to Santa Catalina Island and San Clemente Island.
Also at the governor's request, the department will drop the area around Begg Rock Island and St. Nicholas Island near San Clemente Island from a lease sale planned in late 1989, but not from subsequent lease sales, and will delay until July the call for tract nominations for that sale that could have been made last month.
Some areas will be held back from the northern California offering scheduled for February 1989, but not later ones.
Off Oregon and Washington, the area north of Aberdeen, Wash., will get special examination before leasing, as will some smaller areas off Florence and Coos Bay, Ore.
The Interior Department accepted many of the recommendations of the Institute for Resource Management, a project of actor Robert Redford, for Alaska waters.
The institute sponsored discussions between oil companies and environmental groups trying to reach a consensus on what could be leased, and its recommendations were endorsed by 11 environmental organizations, nine oil companies, two fishing organizations and 14 villages or Native American organizations.
The department is dropping these Alaska areas from further consideration: Aleutian Basin, Bowers Basin, Aleutian Arc and Kodiak. These extend south of the Aleutian Islands west of the Aleutian Peninsula, around to the north of the westernmost islands. In addition, the St. Matthew Hall area off central western Alaska is barred from exploration.
The institute recommended 48 million acres for exploration in the Bering Sea planning areas. The department added tracts that bring the total up to 81 million acres, according to Lisa Speer of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that participated in the negotiations.
Alaska waters outside the Arctic Ocean are now a hodgepodge of off-limits areas, areas to be offered for leasing and areas reserved for special examination before lease offerings.
In the Arctic Ocean, a small area off Point Barrow is barred to drilling.