- Published on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 21:48
- Written by Super User
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council will consider adopting a resolution at their upcoming February 28th meeting regarding Seismic Air gun Testing for off shore oil and natural gas exploration. During the Council's February 11th, meeting Ethan Crouch - chair for the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation - asked the Council to consider opposing the use of seismic airguns in the Atlantic Ocean due to impacts on marine life. According to Oceana.org, "Seismic airguns are used to find oil and gas deep underneath the ocean floor. Air guns are so loud that they disturb, injure or kill marine life, harm commercial fisheries, and disrupt coastal economies. These dynamite-like blasts—which are repeated every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for days and weeks at a time—are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine. Seismic airgun testing currently being proposed in the Atlantic will injure 138,500 whales and dolphins and disturb millions more, according to government estimates."
The sound waves that return to the vessel towing monitoring equipment are used to determine if oil or natural gas are located beneath the ocean floor.
A crowd of approximately 300 people rallied at Kure Beach Town Hall on January 27th, to voice their opposition to Mayor Dean Lambeth signing a letter in December 2013 supporting seismic airgun testing for off shore oil and natural gas exploration. The entire Carolina Beach Town Council attended that meeting sitting in the audience hearing from residents both in favor and opposition.
At the Carolina Beach Council's February 11th, meeting Crouch explained, "I am the chair for the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our oceans, waves, and beaches, through a powerful activist network. We have over 250,000 members worldwide, 85 chapters in the US and 4 chapters in NC. I am speaking to you tonight regarding the current threat to perform seismic air gun testing in the mid atlantic region. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is scheduled to make its final recommendation on weather or not to permit this dangerous activity this month."
Crouch said according to the Department of the Interior's own environmental impact statement the impacts of seismic air gun testing for Opt A include but are not limited to:
• Bottlenose dolphins: up to 11,748 injuries per year
• Short-beaked common dolphin: up to 6,147 injuries
• Atlantic spotted dolphins: up to 5,848 injuries per year
• Short-finned pilot whales: up to 4,631 injuries per year
• Striped dolphins: up to 3,993 injuries per year
• Disruption to marine mammal feeding, calving, breeding, & other vital
activities: 1.6 million times per year
• Sea turtles: potential behavior disruption and breeding & nesting displacement for endangered species including the hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, and leatherback, and the threatened loggerhead sea turtle.
• Fish resources: potential behavioral responses, temporary hearing loss,
and physiological effects on demersal and pelagic fishes.
Crouch said, "Further, The use of airguns to conduct these seismic tests also threatens fish populations and profitable fisheries. Airgun noise has been shown to decrease fisheries catch rates by 40-80 percent, forcing fishermen to seek compensation for their losses. Additionally, commercial and recreational fishing off the mid- and southeast Atlantic generate $11.8 billion annually and support 222,000 jobs. The U.S. Department of Interior's (DOI) assessment fails to estimate the economic impact to fisheries that could occur from seismic surveys which are vital to the Atlantic coast."
He explained, "Tonight I am providing the council with copies of a congressional letter signed by 47 members of the house and senate and sent to the president. Along with a copy of the Surfrider Foundation's letter sent to Secretary Salizar and the president. As a community that would be directly impacted by seismic air gun testing and responsible stewards of the coast I request the town council members either individually or as a council join these congressional men and women along with the thousands of citizens to voice opposition to this dangerous practice."
He explained, "After attending the last Kure Beach town council meeting you each already heard detail presentations on both sides of this issue as well as public comments from the members of this community. Holding another, special meeting to review this same information would not be a productive use of time. Now is the time to act with the BOEM rapidly approaching recommendation and our precious resources at risk. Opt A & Opt B in the EIS are not the safest way to map oil & gas deposits. Its up to us as citizens and elected leaders to hold these huge corporations accountable and to proceed with the safest procedures available to protect our marine life and fishing industry."
Mayor Dan Wilcox explained, "We haven't had any formal discussion on it. Kind of independent discussions in passing. The initial thought was that this was a federal issue... something that is above our pay grade and three to five people in any town of 6,000 might not be the best ones especially not experts to take a position for the whole town on this. Having thought about that a lot it seems to me this is an issue that because of its coastal proximity and its potential to impact our coast lines it is an issue that I would personally be willing to take a position on."
Wilcox explained, "I think I've talked independently to each of the council people and my count is that we all oppose... seismic testing and I know we are in a timing issue to get something on that. The problem is, if we are going to do a resolution, even though we all sat through the public hearing,
we all heard everything everybody has to say and we all - I believe - are in agreement on this issue, we are not in the habit of doing resolutions without a public hearing."
He explained, "We at least need to give the opportunity to everyone to attend our meeting and have some input from the council."
Council member Sarah Friede said, "I think some of the furry down in Kure Beach was that the initial decision was made without any public input and we saw what happened. Some of the outcry was on the seismic issue and some of it was procedure. Dan is 100% correct that my position anyway, I'm opposed to it but I don't feel like I can sign anything on behalf of the Town without having it open for the residents to speak."
Wilcox said, "I think part of the reason we haven't done anything on this that, it seems to me we have a Town of 6,000 and a much stronger statement to the powers that be are letters from three or four thousand citizens verses one letter from Town Council."
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said the Council could hold a hearing at one of the meetings towards the end of the month. He said, "If we want to have it at a public hearing at the end of the month and take a Town position, I'm ok doing that. Individually, I'm happy to sign something for you because I told you I believe it’s not something that we need the way it’s currently asked for."
Councilman Gary Doetsch said, "I think we are all in agreement that the particular method of testing right now is something we are opposed to. Again, I think we would probably be better off just writing individual letters and sending them to the powers that be in Washington."
Wilcox said he wasn't sure how the resolution would read, and the Council asked the Town Attorney to author a resolution prior to their February 28th, meeting.
The February 28th meeting begins at 5PM at Town Hall in the Town Council meeting room.