NEW ORLEANS (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was on hand when federal regulators put more than 38 million acres in the central Gulf of Mexico up for bid to offshore energy producers.

The New Orleans sale began at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Superdome and included about 7,299 federally-owned drilling tracts, three to 230 miles off the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. The tracts are in water depths of nine to more than 11,115 feet.

It's estimated the sale could lead to the production of 460 million to 890 million barrels of oil, and 1.9 trillion to 3.9 trillion cubic feet of gas.

After the sale, Salazar will travel to Louisiana's Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge to see the progress of a marsh restoration project.

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