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Speaker: NOAA Cook Inlet Habitat Designation Harmful, Unnecessary


Agency’s decision closing 3000 miles of Cook Inlet takes effect in 30 days

Friday, April 08, 2011, Juneau, Alaska – House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, released the following statement today regarding the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association’s Fisheries Service decision to designate 3,016 miles of Cook Inlet as critical Beluga habitat.


“This is another prime example of the federal government locking up our land and ignoring the calls for caution from the State of Alaska and the Legislature.

“We have continually struck back against the federal government’s lack of consideration of the state’s own data that shows the Beluga population is recovering.

“They are closing off the middle and lower Cook Inlet for federal permits next month. That means no construction, drilling or dredging. What good is exempting the Port of Anchorage if the federal government chokes Alaska’s economy to the point that cargo vessels won’t come calling? What about development of Port McKenzie? Sadly, we’ve feared this decision since they originally listed the Beluga in 2008.

“This rule sends a terribly mixed message. The President of the United States says he wants to lessen reliance on foreign oil – he’s re-opened the permitting process for offshore oil and gas – but with this habitat designation, the feds are blocking just that sort of development. The State of Alaska approved helping to pay for a jack-up rig to hit the Inlet this summer. This federal overreach could jeopardize that work. It is especially troubling for the Kenai, following on the heels of the LNG plant’s closure earlier this year. We were hoping to see the benefit of the state participation in drilling this summer. Now? It’s out the window.

“I am, and will continue to be, indignant on this issue.

“The federal government ignored state data and biologists, and Alaskans and our kids will have to pay for it. That means fewer jobs, less economic multipliers of that payroll, and less energy security and stability for the entire Railbelt region.”

The final rule, filed today, will take effect in 30 days.

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