A drilling rig is up and running in Cook Inlet, along the southern Alaska coast. The rig, which will remain in the Inlet for 8 or more years, drilling numerous wells during the short summer seasons, expects to complete this first oil and gas well by the end of October, well before ice develops. Local environmental groups pressed the Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA to not allow the rig into the inlet, citing concerns that oil and gas development activity will negatively impact a recently-designated 3000-square mile critical habitat for the critically endangered local beluga whale population. In addition to possible impacts of a spill, noise from drilling in a central concern. The permits allowing drilling require the company to maintain beluga observation crews, and to reduce the speed (and thus noise) of the drill when belugas are nearby, and shut down operations if they come very close.
Cook Inlet is over a hundred miles long, with Anchorage at its inner end; this is also the section of the Inlet that is now designated as critical habitat. The first drilling operation is in the central part of the critical habitat, between Kenai and Tyonek on the map below.For more on the situation, see the two links above, which go to fairly detailed articles in the local media, and see these two previous AEI posts about the Cook Inlet belugas.