Good plans make good neighbors?
Try putting up a new house in your neighborhood and it is likely that you will run afoul of the Town Planning office and the Code Enforcement officer, because there aren’t too many places in the terrestrial US that don’t have some sort of development planning and regulations. Some is very strict and some pretty loosely structured, but we think of it as part of daily life. Not so for our oceans. For those of us that spend time out on the water, it has become obvious that there are a lot more efforts to build ocean projects or use the ocean resources for non-traditional purposes. There are all kinds of shipping. There are LNG at-sea terminals. Pipelines have been put in place to ship gas from Canada. There are some efforts at mineral extraction and who knows about offshore drilling. We all know about the Cape Wind project for Vineyard Sound and now there are larger projects proposed for south of Martha’s Vineyard. Whether we like it or not, it is happening.
Historically, this ocean development has been handled by a diverse group of state and federal agencies that essentially acted on their own behalf. This made it hard for concerned citizens to know where and when to give their input. The National Ocean Policy established by Executive Order in 2010 started the process of moving to Coastal & Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP). The NE Regional Planning Body (NERPB) established by the National Ocean Policy began its efforts to write a draft Northeast Ocean Plan and that draft was released in late May.
All of the information about the RPB and the draft Northeast Ocean Plan can be found at http://neoceanplanning.org/about/ . As part of the NERPB’s efforts, you will also find a comprehensive ocean uses data portal. This displays in a layered GIS format all the varied ocean activities. The NERPB has been collecting this user data for about four years. For details about ocean lease areas go to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) at the following link; http://www.boem.gov/Commercial-Wind-Leasing-Offshore-Massachusetts/
A lot of folks in the recreational and commercial fishing industries thought that this planning effort was simply a backdoor effort by the environmental community to set up no-fishing zones. The reality is that the NE Draft Ocean Plan was and is about doing the best job possible of coordinating all the previously independent ocean development regulations. It will also give concerned citizens a process to make sure that they are recognized in the development process. Direct fishing related regulations, such as closed areas, will remain with the New England Fisheries Management Council, which sits on the NERPB to represent fishing interests.
I have never been an advocate of building bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake. I do believe that when public trust resources are at risk, that there needs to be government oversight in the management process. The NERPB’s draft Northeast Ocean Plan may not be perfect yet, but if each of us takes the time to get familiar with it, we will continue to move it in the direction of perfection.