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NC Reviews Coastal Seismic Testing Proposal

 A beach swimmer on the Carolina coast. Officials warn of strong rip tide currents.
Billy Hathorn, Creative Commons

State officials want to hear from the public as they review an upcoming seismic testing project off the coast of North Carolina. 

The National Science Foundation plans to survey the sea floor this fall near several Atlantic states.  Scientists say they want to know more about how our continental crust shifted and stretched. 

They will use up to 36 seismic air guns, which release highly pressurized blasts of air.  Environmentalists have said that will injure marine life and could disrupt migration patterns. 

Division of Coastal Management spokeswoman Michele Walker says it's not clear how the blasts would affect wildlife, but the agency is also considering the timing of the project.

"This testing would be performed, really, in the middle of prime fishing season in September and October," Walker says.

"And they'd be out in the middle of prime fishing waters. We think that could be a concern to that community as well."

"Because this particular survey would involve a source vessel that's deploying 18 to 36 seismic air guns, we thought it was important that the public know about this and be able to comment on it.  It's the same type of testing that would be used for searching for offshore oil and gas deposits, although that's not what they're looking for during this survey."

The Division of Coastal Management is accepting comments through the end of this week.  It will then decide whether the project is in line with state policies.

Will Michaels is WUNC's General Assignment Reporter and fill-in host for "Morning Edition"
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