In September, work by Apache in the Ninilchik area came to a sudden "pause" when the oil and gas company was unable to obtain permits needed to continue its planned seismic operation.
The work camp set up in American Legion Post 18's campground was removed. The need for food services abruptly ended. Jobs disappeared that residents hoped would get them through a winter following a disastrous fishing season.
A press released issue by Sen. Mark Begich's office on Monday made it appear the pause might be over.
"U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today applauded Apache for securing a key permit allowing them to move forward with seismic testing in the Cook Inlet basin," Begich, who recently visited Homer, said in the press release. "Today the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Apache. With the IHA, Apache can begin work this spring."
Unfortunately, it isn't the permit needed for the Ninilchik area.
"This permit is for an area adjacent to areas we're already working in the northern Cook Inlet," said Lisa Parker, Apache's manager of government relations.
"The area we worked was basically from Tyonek and Beluga, coming across Cook Inlet toward Nikiski. We are going to go north of that. Moose Point, down to Captain Cook State Park, is the reference point on land, but it will be the marine waters offshore from that."
Parker characterized the permit as "semi-good news" since it contains stipulations that Apache is reviewing to see "if they're conditions we can live with at this time. We have to look at the details."
As chairman of the Senate Oceans Subcommittee, Begich said he has been pushing NOAA to speed up the permitting in the last several months so work can be done this year.
"We very much appreciate the work of both Sen. Begich and Sen. (Lisa) Murkowski, working with us on not only this, but other federal issues," said Parker. "Both senatorial offices have been wonderful."
As far as returning to Ninilchik, Parker said, "The timing with which we'll be doing that, I can't answer right now. It is our intent to come back. I just don't know when."