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Arctic Power - Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Sep 21st
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Home arrow News arrow What is ANWR and where is it?
What is ANWR and where is it? PDF Print E-mail
Most people don't really understand where the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is located and the relatively tiny amount of space within ANWR, (the Coastal Plain), that's been set aside for potential oil and gas development.

ANWR lies in the top northeast corner of Alaska. The entire refuge lies north of the Arctic Circle and 1,300 miles south of the North Pole. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was originally formed on Dec. 6, 1960 with an original size of 8.9 million acres. In 1980 and 1983 ANWR was added to for a current size of 19.6 million acres comprising of three distinct legal areas of use within its borders. Despite its name ANWR is NOT entirely “refuge”. The southern part of ANWR taking 9.16 million acres is classified as officially “Refuge”. The central 8 million acres of ANWR is classified as “Wilderness”. The uses and definitions of these terms was legally stated in the Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136, 78 Stat. 890 -- Public Law 88-577).

Lastly at the top of ANWR, there is a special area of 1.5 million acres on the Arctic Coastal Plain called the “10-02” Area. The 10-02 Area takes its name from the section of the Congressional bill, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), that expanded ANWR in 1980. In Section 10-02 Congress set aside 1.5 million acres of the Arctic Coastal Plain specifically for “oil and gas exploration”. This 10-02 Area is classified legally neither as “refuge” nor as “wilderness”, rather defined and separated by Congress for oil and gas exploration due to its well-known geological evidence of potential large hydrocarbon deposits. The 10-02 area, is bordered on the north by the Beaufort Sea, on the east by ANWR “wilderness” area and the U.S. Canadian border, and on the west by the Canning River and ANWR outer border. It is completely flat and barren with no trees, hills, or mountains. Nine months of the year is covered with snow and ice and practically void of life. Three of those months are in total 24 hour darkness. In the 6 weeks of summer the coastal plain is dotted with thousands of lakes and is covered by boggy tundra on permafrost (permanently frozen ground).

The 10-02 Area is a further anomaly within ANWR’s border in that it contains 92,000 acres of private land owned by the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) of Kaktovik, ANWR’s only settlement and population. The subsurface rights of this 92,000 acres are owned by the Inupiat native organization the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC).

To say or suggest then that “the Refuge” (meaning ANWR’s entire area) would be opened for oil and gas exploration is completely false. The Congressional definitions of “refuge” and “wilderness”, which comprises over 92% of the ANWR area, forbids any development of any kind.

To further specify the definition of land that could be used in ANWR Congress has limited any future development footprint size to 2000 acres. This means that within the 1.5 million acres of the 10-02 Area and with in the total 19.6 million acres of ANWR …..ONLY 2000 ACRES CAN BE USED! That’s less than ½ of 1% of the total area of ANWR.

The 10-02 area however, cannot be explored despite its specific oil and gas definition without Congressional approval. And it is at this point that the debate now stands.

If ANWR was a state, it would be larger than 10 other states;

Size of ANWR relative to U.S. states:

1. ANWR19.0 million acres
Portion of ANWR permanently closed to development (Wilderness & Refuge)17.5 million
2. West Virginia15.5
3. Maryland 6.6
4. Vermont 6.1
5. New Hampshire5.9
6. Massachusetts5.3
7. New Jersey4.9
8. Hawaii 4.1
9. Connecticut3.2
Area proposed for exploration 1.5 million
10. Delaware 1.3
11. Rhode Island.7
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