MOREHEAD CITY — Coastal residents from around Carteret County and beyond came to the Crystal Coast Civic Center Monday to let the state know they oppose offshore seismic surveying.
The N.C. Division of Coastal Management held the public hearing and about 45 people attended, of which 20 provided input. The division is taking public comments on a proposal made by the Western GeCo surveying company. The company wants to conduct seismic surveying in federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean, including those off North Carolina.
Seismic surveying is a form of testing that uses compressed air blasts to search for offshore oil and gas deposits without exploratory drilling.
Offshore energy activities, such as oil and gas drilling and seismic surveying, is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. However, DCM Executive Director Braxton Davis said at the hearing that under federal consistency provisions, state agencies have the authority to review any proposals that “may reasonably be expected to affect state waters.”
“The written comment period ends (Friday) June 7,” Mr. Davis said. “The DCM is interested in all comments.”
All those who spoke at the hearing were opposed to seismic surveying and the offshore drilling they said might result from it. Many cited risk to marine life, as well as how the activities could negatively affect the tourism-based coastal economies of the area.
Crystal Coast Waterkeeper office representative Bryson Alexander said he was disappointed to have to come before the DCM again. He said he’d been before the division before when four other surveying companies submitted proposals for seismic surveying previously and the division had taken comments on those proposals about two years ago.
“The seismic blasting could cripple the coastal economy,” Mr. Alexander said. “While surveying may be in the best interests of Western GeCo and oil companies, it’s a fool’s errand.”
Carteret County Chamber of Commerce President and Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast President Tom Kies said his two organizations “categorically oppose offshore drilling and seismic testing anywhere off our coast.”
“In two weeks, the Big Rock (Blue Marlin) Tournament will bring fishermen from around the country,” he said. “Seismic blasting negatively affects fish from stunning to killing them … seismic testing off our coast is just bad for business.”
Bald Head Island Mayor Pro Tem Kit Adcock said the economy of her town is based on coastal tourism and she thinks seismic testing is an even bigger risk to that than offshore drilling is.
She said according to research she’s read, the volume of the air gun blasts is exponentially greater than what would be required to rupture human eardrums.
Duke University Marine Lab Randolph K. Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers University professor of conservation technology Dr. Doug Nowacek said he’s been studying marine acoustics for about 26 years.
All studies on ocean noise have shown loud noises like seismic air blasts have some sort of effect on various types of marine life, he said.
“Some species haven’t even been studied yet,” he said. “These surveys won’t be the only ones, they’ll just be the start. There are alternative technologies that haven’t been explored yet.”
Oceana representative Randy Sturgill said state leaders, such as Gov. Roy Cooper, needs to “step up” and voice concerns at the state level.
“Gov. Cooper’s long been a leader in this cause,” Mr. Sturgill said. “Our state is united in opposition to offshore drilling activity. North Carolina should find seismic air gun blasting inconsistent with our environmental protection laws … noise from dynamite-like air gun blasts can injure and kill marine animals.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.