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Begich Statement on NOAA’s Beluga Whale Critical Habitat Proposal UPDATED


Correction: Begich Statement on NOAA's Beluga Whale Critical Habitat Proposal

The previously released statement (shown below) improperly identified the length of time available for public comment. Public comment for NOAA's proposal will be open for 60 days, until January 31, 2010, 45 days properly identified the period of time available for requests for public hearings. Additional information about how to submit public comments is available below:

Comments on the proposed critical habitat area must be received by January 31, 2010.
Send comments to: Kaja Brix, Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources, Alaska Region, NMFS, ATTN: Ellen Sebastian.  Comments must be identified by "RIN 0648-AX50" and sent by any one of the following methods: 
  • Electronic submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal website at http://www.regulations.gov.
  • Mail:  P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK, 99802-1668.
  • Fax: 907-586-7557
  • Hand deliver to the Federal Building: 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK.

Begich Statement on NOAA's Beluga Whale Critical Habitat Proposal

U.S. Senator Mark Begich issued a statement Dec. 1 in response to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's proposal to establish a critical habitat for Cook Inlet's beluga whale population. Following this announcement, NOAA will hold a public meeting and accept comments on the proposed habitat for a period of 45 days. The proposed habitat consists of approximately a third of Cook Inlet:

"Alaska is an ocean state so the fish and wildlife which thrive in our waters are not an abstract scientific notion. Every Alaskan who has enjoyed watching beluga whales from the shoreline along Turnagain Arm knows these animals are important to us. That's why Alaskans are committed to protecting the beluga whales in Cook Inlet.

"At the same time, development in Cook Inlet is necessary for Alaska's economy and we've taken numerous steps to ensure that it can coexist with the fish and wildlife of the region. This includes careful monitoring at Anchorage's wastewater treatment plant, habitat protection for streams that flow into the inlet, and environmentally responsible expansion of the Port of Anchorage.

"The Bush administration in October 2008 listed the Cook Inlet beluga as endangered so we've long known this next shoe would drop - this proposed designation of critical habitat. This could potentially cost Southcentral residents hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade facilities without a clear benefit for the environment.

"In this proposed designation, NOAA chose not to address the Port of Anchorage's request for an exemption due to the port's strategic and economic importance.  I strongly urge NOAA to reevaluate the Port's request in the final designation.  Also troubling is the potential impact this action could have on military deployments through the Port of Anchorage, which are vital for our nation's defense.

"Alaskans now have 45 days to let federal fisheries managers know of their concerns and how this proposed designation could affect them. I urge Alaskans to weigh in."

Find th eproposal online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/cetaceans/belugawhale.htm

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