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Notice

Preparation of an Environmental Assessment for Proposed Lease Sale 178 in the Central Gulf of Mexico (2001)

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Minerals Management Service.

ACTION:

Preparation of an Environmental Assessment.

SUMMARY:

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) is beginning preparation of an environmental assessment (EA) for proposed lease Sale 178 (scheduled for March 2001) in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area. In August 1996, MMS issued a Call for Information and Nominations/Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS (Call/NOI) for the five proposed Central Gulf of Mexico sales in the current 5-year leasing program. In 1997, MMS prepared a single environmental impact statement (EIS) for all five sales. The multisale Final EIS, filed in November 1997, included an analysis of a single, “typical” sale, and a cumulative analysis that included the effects of holding all five sales, as well as the cumulative effects of the long-term development of the planning area. The MMS stated in the EIS that an EA would be prepared for each lease sale after the first sale covered in the EIS (Sale 169).

The preparation of this EA is the first step in the prelease decision process for Sale 178. The proposal and alternatives for Sale 178 were identified by the Director of MMS in November 1996 following the Call/NOI and were analyzed in the Central Gulf multisale EIS, which is available from the Gulf of Mexico OCS Region's Public Information Office at 1-800-200-GULF. The proposed action analyzed in the multisale EIS was the offering of all available unleased acreage in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area. The EA will also analyze alternatives to defer blocks south and within 15 miles of Baldwin County, Alabama, and to defer blocks containing topographic features with sensitive biological resources, as well as the no action alternative. The analysis in the EA will reexamine the potential environmental effects of the proposal and alternatives based on any new information regarding potential impacts and issues that was not available at the time the Final EIS was prepared.

The MMS requests interested parties to submit comments regarding any such new information or issues that should be addressed in the EA to Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, Office of Leasing and Environment, Attention: Regional Supervisor (MS 5410), 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394 by June 15, 2000. After completion of the EA, MMS will determine whether to prepare a Finding of No New Significant Impact (FONNSI) or a supplemental EIS. The MMS will then prepare and send consistency determinations to the affected States to determine whether the proposed sale is consistent with federally-approved State coastal zone management programs, and will send a proposed Notice of Sale to the Governors for their comments on the size, timing, and location of the proposed sale. The tentative schedule for the steps in the prelease decision process for Sale 178 is listed below:

Comments due to MMS, June 15, 2000;

EA/FONNSI or Supplemental EIS, October 2000;

Consistency Determinations sent to States, October 2000;

Proposed Notice of Sale sent to Governors, November 2000;

Final Notice of Sale in Federal Register, January 2001;

Sale, March 2001.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana 70123-2394, Mr. George Hampton, telephone (504) 736-2465.

Start Signature

Dated: May 9, 2000.

Charles J. Schoennagel,

Acting Regional Director, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region.

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[FR Doc. 00-12108 Filed 5-12-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4310-MR-P