The state has found two applications for proposed seismic testing off the North Carolina coast consistent with North Carolina’s coastal management program but with some conditions.


The state has found two applications for proposed seismic testing off the North Carolina coast consistent with North Carolina’s coastal management program but with some conditions.



The N.C. Division of Coastal Management announced early this month that the division has approved consistency submissions from Spectrum Geo Inc. and GX Technology, two of the companies seeking federal permits to conduct seismic surveying off the North Carolina coast related to potential off shore oil and gas exploration.



No decision has yet been made on two other submissions.



While the surveys would take place entirely in federal waters and the state does not have the authority the permit the projects, it does have the authority to review applications to determine if the proposed activities are consistent with the state’s certified coastal management program. The Spectrum and GX proposals were determined to be consistent with the state’s relevant policies.



However, the approval comes with a condition and several recommendations for both proposals.



The division will require a pre-survey meeting with representatives of the state divisions of Marine Fisheries and Coastal Management to review and discuss precise survey transects and timing to minimize potential impacts to fisheries or user groups.



In the letter of concurrence sent to each company, the division notes that a number of comments were received during the review process about potential impacts from seismic testing on fisheries and marine animals and habitat, including comments from the Division of Marine Fisheries.



Of particular concern is the cumulative impact from multiple surveys in the same geographic area over a short period of time.



“Numerous comments were received concerning the potential impacts of seismic surveys on marine organisms and habitats, including those submitted by the Division of Marine Fisheries. Many of these concerns were magnified by the potential for cumulative impacts to fisheries, if as many as nine seismic surveys were to be independently conducted within the same geographic area over a relatively short time frame,” the letter states. “Given the possibility that multiple surveys may be conducted offshore of North Carolina, we recognize that disturbances could impact local fish abundance by deterring foraging, refuge and spawning activities, possibly affecting economically valuable fisheries operations throughout the proposed survey area.”



To help reduce impacts, the state recommends that the companies relocate proposed transects to avoid South Atlantic Fishery Management Council-designated Habitat Areas of Particular Concern, as well as other important spawning, foraging and refuge areas.



It is also recommended that they avoid conflicts with offshore fishing tournaments, major recreational fishing areas and seasonally-focused fishing.



The companies are also asked to follow the mitigation measures required under a federal environmental review that the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management established in 2014 for offshore oil and gas exploration.



If the companies do not agree to the condition of a pre-survey meeting, the letter becomes a letter of objection, and the company opposed would be required to submit a letter of non-agreement.



To view a description of the proposed projects or copies of the letters of concurrence sent to Spectrum and GX Technolgy, go to the division’s website at portal.ncdenr.org/web/cm/offshore-surveys.