• Two upcoming community discussions are in the planning stages
By Naomi Klouda
Buccaneer Alaska’s vice president visited the Homer City Council Monday night for a 10-minute talk that opened way for a couple dozen people to ask questions on drilling plans for this limb of Cook Inlet.
Mark Landt, vice president of land and business development for Buccaneer, informed the council of its West Eagle drilling program. One well is to be drilled in a gravel pit area 6.7 miles from McNeil Canyon School, 1,900 feet above sea level. It is one of nine units acquired by Buccaneer 21 miles out on East End Road, land owned by the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Currently, East End Road Services leases it to extract gravel, and it is under a Van Oss family grazing lease.
The project timeline involves gathering permits in the coming months, and community outreach, Landt said. Drilling operations are to begin early next year, with 3D seismic studies and pipeline facilities to be constructed later in 2013. Buccaneer hopes for production by 2014.
“We’ll be using the Glacier Drilling Rig built in 2001 by Marathon specifically for the Kenai Peninsula, which we’re currently using for drilling at the Kenai Loop project. It’s light weight and transportable,” he told the council. “We haven’t yet identified water sources. Most likely we’ll buy it from the city, and we’ll be trucking it on to location.”
The permits Buccaneer is at work acquiring now are from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources for a lease plan of operations and a temporary water use permit required to withdraw water from a non-permitted source. They also need a Minor General Air Quality Permit from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and an authorization for temporary storage and drilling waste. The oil discharge prevention and contingency plan, known as Plan C, also must be acquired and they will need to complete their applications for Permit to Drill and Sundry Notices through the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Buccaneer concedes it may be necessary to make improvements on the narrow switch-backs of East End Road by Basargin in order to facilitate truck traffic of about 10 loads a day.
Since the council agenda invites comments before the visitor’s talks, concerned members of the public testified ahead of Landt’s presentation. Their questions addressed both the West Eagle project and the plans for Cook Inlet, since the jackup rig Endeavour has remained at the Homer Deep Water Dock for more than six weeks when initial plans called for a one-week visit.
Roberta Highland who directs the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, called on Buccaneer to answer the public’s questions about development plans. “So far, Buccaneer has failed at public relations, at least with the larger public,” she said.
Frank Mullen weighed in from the perspective of commercial fishing, saying he is entering his 50th year of fishing in Cook Inlet.
“Still fairly fresh in my mind are the oil spills, including Exxon and Glacier Bay as well as close calls with other industry activities, such as the Drift River Tank Farm’s near miss at the base of the volcano,” Mullen said. “I want to bring a message that all fishermen and citizens need to have good information … It’s so important that everyone has the opportunity to have knowledge to prevent undue anxiety.”
Mullen asked that the city council help foster the conversation between the public and Buccaneer.
Kevin Walker told the council he looked forward to hearing from Mark Landt about Buccaneer business plans for the future. Kachemak Bay is a Critical Habitat Area that specifically spells out that jackup rigs are not allowed. With the Endeavour’s legs down, it is in violation of the state management plan for a CHA. He also challenged the contention that the legs had to be lowered to accommodate high winds on Sept. 15-16, saying he checked the record and found gusts during a severe storm didn’t reach beyond 28 knots. “These are not emergency conditions for Cook Inlet standards, but they were for an unusual, uninvited guest.”
Nina Faust questioned how the jackup rig was allowed to enter the CHA. “I have the feeling the rules were bent a little bit.”
She also feels concern about how Buccaneer’s answers to transparency, since phone calls aren’t returned and no public meeting has yet to be called.
“They clearly rushed it here to cash in on the state subsidy … A stampede invites errors and creates disasters. Kachemak Bay is a special place and that’s why it’s a critical habitat. The state is reckless in setting up a stampede, bringing equipment here before it’s ready to be used,” she said.
Several questioned the fitness of the Endeavour for Cook Inlet waters, since it is taking so long to make adjustments to meet permit requirements. Robert Archibald, chief engineer on tugs for tanker escorting, told the council that other places in the state have demanded the best in technology before drilling operations. “They are spending an inordinate amount of time fixing things here, and that leaves me with a doubt in my mind.”
Landt told the council Buccaneer didn’t expect to be in Homer so long, and is missing its deadline for drilling at the Tyonek site in Lower Cook Inlet. “We ran into a number of issues. We’re currently working to get the rig to fitness.” One issue is a rescue craft that had to be replaced with a factory upgrade and it hasn’t arrived yet. They also needed work on a fire suppressant system.
Once this work is complete, the Endeavour will depart for the Cosmopolitan Unit off Anchor Point. “We originally wanted to get to Tyonek, but deferred due to the time it took to fix other areas,” he said.
Council members also asked a lot of questions. David Lewis asked about Alaska hires. Landt responded that 81 Alaskans are on the job now, between the Kenai Loop project and the work on the Endeavour. Nine welders and five electricians as well as longshoreman and guards are all Homer residents, he said.
He also asked about road traffic on East End Road and Basargin, which sees a lot of trucks, kids on four-wheelers and hunters. Landt responded that they will be permitting with the Department of Transportation and will need to pay for road improvements.
Francie Roberts asked about the total area of drilling and the potential number of wells. Landt said the Buccaneer unit of nine leases is 55,000 acres. “This is an exploration project. Very few have (prospected) there – only two drilled in the past. An exploration play is where it’s not well delineated, you’ll buy more acreage because you aren’t sure which will be successful.”
Beau Burgess asked about a contingency plan in case of a blowout in Cook Inlet. Landt said Buccaneer has an approved blowout contingency plan that is open to the public for review. He assured Burgess he could have a copy of it.
“I would encourage you to hold as many public meetings as possible because people here like to know what is going on,” Burgess said.
“I hear you loud and clear,” Landt said.
While the meeting continued inside council chambers, Landt took press and public questions outside for about half an hour. The Endeavour jackup rig will be at the dock for an undetermined amount of time. The state has extended its deadline for drilling at Tyonek. The plan is to set to drilling work off Anchor Point, which is mostly ice-free in the winter months whereas Tyonek Lower Cook Inlet is closed to drilling due to icy conditions by November.
The backup plan for wintering over, if the Anchor Point Cosmopolitan Unit proves unfeasible for work, is to stay in Port Graham where the Spartan 151 jackup rig is currently wintering over.
Cook Inletkeeper’s Bob Shavelson asked if Buccaneer has permits for its blowout contingency plan in place to go to work at the Cosmopolitan Unit when it leaves Homer’s port. Typically this permit takes months to obtain. Landt said he didn’t believe that would be a problem.
As for the Endeavour rig’s permission to be in the CHA with its legs down, Landt said Buccaneer inquired with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and was told they did not need a permit to enter the bay or make contact with the sea substrata.
A letter from Ginny Litchfield, area manager, told Buccaneer on Oct. 5 that the “ADF&G, Division of Habitat, issued a ‘no permit required letter’ to Buccaneer on April 19, 2011.”
“After evaluation of the Situation Report, it appears that the ‘legs down’ mode of the Endeavour near the Deep Water dock was the safest method for moorage during high wind events such as those that occurred Sept. 15-16. Since moorage at the Deep Water Dock hasn’t previously been attempted for a vessel of this size and shape, the need to lower the legs to provide stability had not been anticipated,” Litchfield’s letter stated.
Shavelson invited Landt and other Buccaneer officials to a Cook Inletkeeper event at Islands and Ocean Visitor Center on Oct. 18.
Landt said Buccaneer now has a local liaison for public contact, Christina Anderson at (855) 865-2298.
In other council matters:
• Dredging the Nick Dudiak Fishing Hole will move forward after the council approved a total of $367,500. The money comes from the city’s Fishing Hole Maintenance fund and from the General Fund. A separate measure approved hiring the firm of Alaska Marine Excavating LLC of Anchor Point to do the work. The dredging spoils, once sold, could recoup these costs.
• Passed: a resolution to spend $20,000 from the Hart Fund to complete survey and design work on the new Kachemak Drive Non Motorized Pathway.
• Passed: Appropriating $15,000 for the Homer Education and Recreation Complex to get it up to code and diverse the type of leaseholders. Building has good bones, it’s a great spot and make good use of the buildings to do good things for youth and recreation.
• Public Works has now completed the project to relocate the entrance to Mariner Park. A new sign indicating the change will be posted to alert the public.
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