With the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) acquired regulatory authority for renewable energy activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), including wind energy development. As part of this responsibility, BOEM conducts detailed environmental analyses of projects proposed for development. The potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the human, coastal and marine environments must be evaluated in order for BOEM to make environmentally sound decisions about managing renewable energy activities and developing mitigation measures to avoid or minimize impacts.
BOEM’s overarching strategic goal is to achieve expeditious and orderly development of energy resources, while minimizing impacts on the environment. BOEM accomplishes this goal, in part, by developing and employing sound science and partnerships. As such, BOEM unites its need to gather baseline data with efforts to leverage partnerships with other Federal agencies, state agencies, universities, and tribal governments. Doing so creates efficiencies in BOEM’s processes; reduces expenditures; builds relationships that will extend these efficiencies and cost reductions into the future; and provides needed data to inform sound decision-making in the present.
At the inception of this project in 2016, BOEM was considering issuing commercial wind energy leases offshore North Carolina within the Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area (WEA). On March 16, 2017, BOEM announced the completion of the nation’s seventh competitive lease sale for renewable wind energy in Federal waters within the Kitty Hawk WEA and subsequently executed a commercial lease with a wind energy developer. BOEM has a need for baseline archaeological data within wind energy planning and lease areas in order to make sound decisions about how to minimize impacts, to form post-construction comparisons during monitoring of environmental changes that might be discernable later, and to meet its responsibilities under Sections 106 and 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Identified geophysical targets (e.g., sidescan sonar contacts and magnetic anomalies) in these areas may prove to be archaeological resources that should be avoided, or they may prove not to be resources and therefore should not prevent development within a specific area of the seafloor. Archaeological identification and ground-truthing of these targets is necessary for informed, responsible decision-making and to assist BOEM in considering the effects of its undertakings subject to review under the NHPA and NEPA.
To meet these needs, BOEM invited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to collaborate via an Interagency Agreement to conduct a baseline archaeological survey near and within the Kitty Hawk WEA (Figures 1 and 2). NOAA provided scientific and technical advice and services, shared its resources, and assisted BOEM with conducting and analyzing the resulting data. This partnership afforded both BOEM and NOAA a unique opportunity to share equipment and expertise for mutual benefit. BOEM and NOAA jointly finalized a research design, collaboratively performed the survey and investigations, analyzed results, and produced this joint report.