The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced final regulations that define the process used by its Marine Minerals Program for issuing negotiated, noncompetitive agreements for sand, gravel, and shell resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
The rule describes who may qualify for a negotiated agreement, the application process for qualifying projects, and codifies new and existing procedures for using federal sand, gravel, and shell resources for shore protection, beach restoration or coastal wetland restoration projects undertaken by federal, state and local governments. It also addresses the use of OCS resources for construction projects authorized or funded by the federal government.
The rule does not materially change existing requirements for negotiated agreements to use these minerals in coastal restoration and construction projects, and should not impose additional compliance obligations or costs upon the regulated entities. The rule does not apply to competitive leasing of minerals, such as sand for private or commercial use or commodity minerals such as gold.
The rule details the requirements for requesting a negotiated agreement for qualifying projects, including technical information on the potential sand borrow site and environmental evaluations and consultations with federal agencies, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, on potential impacts from the project. The rule also addresses BOEM’s review procedures for processing requests, the process and timelines for requesting lease modifications, and defines commonly used terms.
BOEM’s Marine Minerals Program is critical to the long-term success and cost-effectiveness of many shore protection, beach nourishment, and coastal habitat restoration projects along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts.
“Coastal erosion, especially in the wake of massive storms, such as Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey, is a serious challenge affecting energy, defense, and public infrastructure, as well as tourism, which is important to state and local economies,” said Acting BOEM Director Walter Cruickshank. “Adding crucial sand, gravel, or shell resources to existing beaches and dunes help to combat future storm and long-term erosion.”
To date, BOEM has executed 53 negotiated agreements to provide OCS sand resources for coastal restoration projects in eight states (New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi), conveying more than 143 million cubic yards of material to restore more than 307 miles of coastline.
BOEM has established strong and effective partnerships, including those with state geological surveys and environmental agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force; U.S. Geological Survey; NOAA Fisheries; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; National Park Service; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“These new regulations allow us to be even more effective when coordinating with our government partners by implementing efficiencies for our planning and response efforts,” said Acting BOEM Director Cruickshank. “Such improvements will enhance our ability to mitigate potential impacts from massive storms and help facilitate disaster recovery efforts.”
Congress amended the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in 1994 to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to negotiate, on a noncompetitive basis, the rights to use OCS resources for shore protection, beach restoration, or coastal wetlands restoration undertaken by a Federal, State, or local government agency; or for a construction project that is funded in whole or in part by or authorized by the Federal Government. Since then, BOEM has exercised its statutory authority over these resources through guidelines, without the benefit of implementing regulations.
The new rule, which creates a new part in the Code of Federal Regulations (30 CFR 583) that addresses negotiated noncompetitive agreements for marine minerals other than oil, gas and sulphur on the OCS, is available online here.