WASHINGTON — The Bush Administration announced Thursday that it intends to ban oil and gas drilling off about half the Washington state coast, one of the last wilderness coastlines in the continental United States.
Under its new proposal, the Administration would consider lifting the drilling prohibition in the year 2000, but the burden of the repeal would be placed on drilling advocates.
The sanctuary runs 35 to 40 miles wide from Copalis Beach to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, covering more than 3,400 square miles.
It is home to the state's only population of sea otters as well as endangered humpback, gray and blue whales. The marbled murrelet, a coastal sea bird proposed for threatened status under the Endangered Species Act, also fishes in the waters.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will publish the proposed rule for the sanctuary next month and, barring any unforeseen problems, the drilling prohibition will go into effect after a 60-day public comment period.
"The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is designed to protect the mammals, birds and other aquatic life of the most pristine coastline of the lower 48 states," the NOAA said in a statement announcing the proposal.