The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) on Thursday issued guidance to oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) extending existing guidance on how to conduct archaeological resources surveys and prepare archaeological reports, and adding certain additional areas for examination based on new information about the likely location of historical resources.
"There are more than 2,100 historic shipwrecks in the Federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and we have a shared responsibility to protect our cultural and historical resources," said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. "In light of new information, recent discoveries, and advances in hydrographic survey technology, we are updating our guidance to operators to help meet this responsibility."
"Oil and gas operators in the Gulf must ensure that drilling is conducted in a manner that is safe and protects environmental and cultural resources – including historical sites," said BSEE Director James Watson.
Both BOEM and BSEE are required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and Executive Order 11593 to institute procedures to assure that Federal plans and programs contribute to the preservation and enhancement of non-Federally owned sites, structures and objects of historical, architectural or archaeological significance. Today's guidance, detailed in Notice to Lessees (NTL) No. 2011-Joint-G01, builds on previous guidance to promote compliance with these and other requirements.
In 2005, NTL No. 2005-G07 provided specific guidance on how to conduct archaeological resources surveys and prepare archaeological reports. This NTL remains in place and continues to establish parameters for conducting these activities. NTL No. 2008-G20 updated the list of OCS blocks requiring these surveys, as well as the required survey-line spacing for each block. Today's NTL supersedes NTL 2008-G20.
Based on new information and improvements in predicting the location of archaeological sites, NTL 2011-Joint-G01 expands the zone in which assessment activities are required. Its focus includes areas where operators are already collecting high-resolution survey data for other purposes that can be used to further improve the understanding of archaeological resources without creating significant new data collection needs.
NTL No. 2011-Joint-G01 is available online at: http://www.boem.gov/Regulations/Notices-To-Lessees/2011/2011-JOINT-G01-pdf.aspx.
The complete list of Gulf of Mexico Region OCS blocks requiring archaeological resource surveys and reports, including the blocks added in the new NTL issued today and other previously identified blocks, are included in Appendix I and published on the BOEM website: http://www.boem.gov/Environmental-Stewardship/Archaeology/surveyblocks-pdf.aspx.
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