Murkowski Statement on NOAA Beluga Whale Proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, issued the following statement in response to a proposal by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to designate at least one-third of Cook Inlet as critical habitat for beluga whales:

"I appreciate that the National Marine Fisheries Service has tried to identify the most important areas for the beluga whale in Cook Inlet, using the limited but available science. I have not had an opportunity to read the economic analysis that estimates the low economic impact of the proposed rule, but I sincerely hope they are correct that it will not cause economic harm to the region. I remain concerned, however, since our experience with critical habitat in other areas of the state is that a designation can sometimes lead to costly delays in permitting, construction and protracted litigation.

"While NOAA has recognized that they can exclude areas under section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), they chose not to. I would encourage the agency to strongly consider some of the requests, including the Port of Anchorage and our two military bases, to be excluded from designation.

"I am also concerned with potential action on activities that the agency has identified, that may restrict the beluga's use of the habitat and ability to secure prey, including salmon and hooligan. I encourage Alaskans to read the proposed rule and provide comments on the economic impacts that this proposed designation might have on them."

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