NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The federal government will offer 77.8 million acres (31.5 million hectares) in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development on Aug. 21.

An Interior Department statement says the lease sale will include 14,585 tracts. They're in water 3 to 231 miles (5 to 370 kilometers) offshore and in water from 9 feet to more than 2 miles (3 to 3,400 meters) deep.

Until August 2017, the Interior Department held separate lease sales for the Gulf's most active area and tracts off Texas. They were consolidated under an Obama administration plan created because bidder numbers were dwindling.

In March , 78.5 million acres (31.7 million hectares) were offered and about 1.3 million acres (0.5 million hectares) drew $244.3 million in high bids. The high bid total was about 37% above the previous sale's and nearly double the March 2018 figure.

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