Bureau of Land Management publishes final supplemental analysis for Willow Master Development Plan

By Arctic Business Journal - February 2, 2023

ANCHORAGE, Alaska —The Bureau of Land Management Alaska State Office today released the final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the proposed Willow Master Development Plan in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). The document, which can be reviewed online at the BLM NEPA Register Willow Master Development Plan project page, addresses the flaws identified by the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in its August 2021 vacatur of the previous administration’s approval of the project.

Consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act, the BLM has identified a preferred alternative in the final SEIS. Alternative E removes one of the five proposed drill sites from consideration and defers consideration of another. Additional environmental analysis would be required to move forward with the deferred fourth pad, and the final record of decision may identify additional deferrals.

The Notice of Availability for the final supplemental environmental impact statement is expected to publish Feb. 3 in the Federal Register. The final environmental analysis is not a final decision regarding the proposed project, which will be issued no sooner than 30 days after the publication of the Notice of Availability.

The preferred alternative reduces the proposed project’s footprint within the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, a critical ecological area in the NPR-A that supports thousands of migratory birds and is a primary calving area and migration corridor for the Teshekpuk Caribou herd. It also reduces freshwater use for project activities as well as the overall length of infield pipelines, gravel and ice roads – all of which may impede caribou movement and impact subsistence users.

The BLM consulted with eight cooperating agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, North Slope Borough, State of Alaska, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Native Village of Nuiqsut, and City of Nuiqsut, as well as external stakeholders in the development of the final SEIS.

In addition to the cooperating agencies, the BLM received substantial input from the public, hosting seven public meetings and receiving a total of 218,931 written comment submissions during the public comment period that ended Aug. 29, 2022.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Originally published on 1 February.

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