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Soundings Archive

NMFS Gives Northstar a Permit
On July 12,2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it has issued a Letter of Authorization to BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., to take marine mammals incidental to the production of offshore oil and gas at BP's Northstar development in the Beaufort sea off Alaska. The permit is good for July 7, 2007, through July 6, 2008, and it's issued under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The BP website includes the following description of the Northstar facility:

    "Northstar was discovered by Shell Oil in 1983 and was left undeveloped until purchased by BP in 1995. Northstar is located 6 miles offshore of the Prudhoe Bay field, in a water depth of 39 feet, in joint federal and state waters. Although it is not the first offshore production facility in the arctic, it is the first without a causeway connecting it to the mainland. Northstar delivers its oil via a subsea pipeline, also a first in arctic Alaska. Production began in October 2001 and has peaked at 80,000 bbl/day."
Construction and operation noise is a primary concern of the permit. It contains several provisions to mitigate sound effects on whales and seals, including the following:
    "(1) avoiding sea lairs by 100 m (328 ft) if new activities occur on the floating sea ice after March 20; (2) establishing and monitoring during all daylight hours a 190 dB safety zone for seals and a 180 dB safety zone for whales; (3) visually monitoring of the safety zones for at least 30 minutes prior to the commencement of activities; (4) shutting- down of sound sources if marine mammals enter the respective safety zones; (5) scheduling non-essential boat, barge, and air traffic to avoid periods when bowhead whales are migrating through the area; and (6) limiting helicopter flights to a corridor from Seal Island to the mainland, and, except when limited by weather, will maintain a minimum altitude of 1,000 ft (305 ft), except during takeoff and landing."
The permit also requires BP to submit annual monitoring reports. The reports are peer reviewed.

  • Click here to read NMFS Federal Register notice of Northstar permit

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