New England’s Congressional Members Demonstrate Strong Leadership and Support for Regional Ocean Planning and the National Ocean Policy

May 16, 2014 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Congress has finally announced a bipartisan compromise on legislation to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRRDA). Thanks to the leadership of Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and California Senator Barbara Boxer, a potentially damaging rider that would have prohibited the US Army Corps of Engineers from working with states and tribes to improve regional management was left out of the final bill. If the provision had been included in the bill – which contains billions of dollars in projects – management decisions for our nation’s coasts and waterways, vitally important for New England states, would have suffered greatly.

The rider, promoted by GOP Congressman Bill Flores of Waco, Texas, would have prohibited the US Army Corps of Engineers from implementing the National Ocean Policy and disallowed the Nation’s leading manager of waterways from coordinating with states, businesses, scientists and coastal users in devising plans for managing coasts, oceans and the Great Lakes. Rep. Flores’ attempt to stop new collaboration and planning among federal and state agencies and ocean users, such as energy developers and shipping interests, ignores the hundreds of billions of dollars of economic value in coastal and Great Lakes commerce, which to a large degree depend upon a network of integrated management.

CLF loudly applauds New England’s Representatives Pingree (ME-1), Michaud (ME-2), Neal (MA-1), Shea-Porter (NH-1), Kuster (NH-2), Welch (VT), McGovern (MA-2), Tsongas (MA-3), Kennedy (MA-4), Tierney (MA-6), Capuano (MA-7), Lynch (MA-8), Keating (MA-9), Cicillene (RI-1), Langevin (RI-2), Larson, (CT-1), Courtney (CT-2), DeLauro (CT-3), Himes (CT-4), and Esty (CT- 5), all of whom voted correctly to oppose the Flores rider.

Unfortunately, the WRRDA bill did not enact the National Endowment for the Oceans, a program championed by Senator Whitehouse (D-RI). However, a new Army Corps program focusing on ocean and coastal resiliency was included that addresses a great need for funding and focuses efforts on our ocean and coastal ecosystems. In a press release issued Thursday, Senator Whitehouse comments, “In Rhode Island and throughout the country, the strength of our economy is tied directly to the health of our oceans and coasts. This program will provide a new avenue through which we can protect and restore those ecosystems. While I would have preferred to establish a separate oceans endowment with broader authority, this program within the Army Corps will enable important projects to go forward that might have otherwise languished. It represents an important step in our nation’s effort to protect coastal resources, and I look forward to supporting this program going forward.”

The National Ocean Policy directs federal agencies to coordinate management activities, implement a science-based system of decision making; support safe and sustainable access and ocean uses; respect cultural practices, recreational access, and maritime heritage; and conserve ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems. The National Ocean Policy does this by providing a framework of ocean planning, a science-based process of improving decisions about ocean resources before conflict arises that involves everyone who has a stake in ocean management, including towns and cities, scientists, fishermen, conservation groups, recreational users, and businesses. The importance of coastal marine spatial planning in decision making is clearly demonstrated as Rhode Island approves its first offshore wind project.

Conservation Law Foundation thanks New England’s leaders for recognizing that partisan politics do not have a place when our ocean, coastal and Great lakes regions have significant management challenges to tackle and that real challenges need real solutions.

Congress Can Let New England States Plan for Future Storms, or Not

Dec 3, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

USACE

The US Army Corps of Engineers works on many coastal projects in Texas. Will Congress let them coordinate with states in New England?

A little over a year ago Superstorm Sandy barreled up the east coast and wreaked havoc on coastal communities and in many states inland. The impacts were notably fierce in New Jersey and areas in and around New York City, but Rhode Island and other states also suffered serious impacts. Homes, businesses and the local infrastructure which creates communities – phone and electrical lines, roads and highways, drinking water and sewage systems, and TV and mass communication systems – were knocked out for days. Some folks couldn’t return to their homes for weeks and thousands of people along the east coast lost their homes completely. It’s estimated that 285 people were killed.

The significant challenges that coastal states face with increasingly large storms in the era of climate change are clear. Luckily, we have excellent policy tools designed specifically to help address the uncertainties of climate change in the National Ocean Policy, and ocean user groups across our region support its use. The National Ocean Policy uses regional ocean planning, improved science and data, requires better agency coordination and relies on deep involvement by stakeholders – all of which are needed to tackle these types of management challenges now. As one state official said, “We can either plan now or we can let nature plan for us.” This is especially true when the anticipated future increase in the number and severity of storms will make these challenges larger and more difficult. We have the tools of the National Ocean Policy at hand, but if some in Congress get their way the New England states could be barred from working with the federal agencies necessary to plan for coastal storm impacts.

The House of Representatives has recently passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, also known as WRRDA. The House bill contains a harmful additional provision, known as a rider, which would prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from coordinating with coastal states to implement any ecosystem-based management or regional ocean planning program. This provision, led by a Congressman from land-locked Waco, Texas, seeks to prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a key coastal and ocean management agency, from coordinating with coastal states. This means that even though many states are conducting planning efforts to help protect their ocean resources and support their state’s ocean economy, they would not be able to coordinate with the U.S. Army Corps on any projects under the National Ocean Policy. While driven by an anti-federal sentiment, the Flores rider actually weakens the ability of states to carry out ocean planning and coastal management for the welfare and health of its own citizens.

On the bright side, the Senate passed a version of the WRRDA bill containing the National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO), which would establish a beneficial fund for improving coastal management and resilience. Championed by energetic Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, NEO will help set up an endowment supporting work by state, regional, tribal and federal entities, as well as nonprofit organizations and academic institutions to fund the baseline science, monitoring, and observation data needed to improve ocean use management, including economic development that will create jobs and support coastal economies.

We need ocean planning and we need all federal agencies — including the US Army Corps of Engineers – to be closely engaged with states and other federal agencies. We can’t be held hostage to the whims of a nonsensical political agenda when we have real work to get done; the difference could be destroyed communities and lost lives. Thankfully, large numbers of Senators and Representatives from New England and other states have spoken out in support of the National Ocean Policy and a National Endowment for the Oceans. Now the Congress needs to let states prepare for their own future by rejecting the irresponsible Flores Rider and enacting the National Endowment for the Oceans.

 

A Climate of Change and the Need for a Plan

Aug 15, 2013 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

Photo credit: AZRainman via Compfight.

Photo credit: AZRainman via Compfight.

Flipping through the latest issue of Commercial Fisheries News recently, I was somewhat surprised to find several stories about climate change interspersed with the ads for diesel engines and winches. These articles weren’t of the “Do you or don’t you believe” variety, or predictions of how high the seas would rise or how bad the storms/droughts/heat waves/cold waves would be. The tone of these stories was summed up pretty well by the cover: “Changing Ocean – what does it all mean?”It was a sobering read, to say the least. In short – rapidly increasing water temperatures, along with ocean acidification and shifting currents are playing havoc with our fishing grounds. Many of our most economically important fish and shellfish are not found where they used to be, and former strangers like sailfish and cobia are becoming familiar in our waters.

Many fishermen have realized, as have many of us non-fishermen, that conversations about climate “beliefs” are outdated, and the real story now is how we cope with the changes that are already happening, and are bound to keep coming.

Fishermen are joining experts in other areas such as coastal infrastructure, energy distribution, and national security in speaking out about the real, observable facts of the current impacts from climate change. Even as the ocean changes, the uses of our oceans and coasts are increasing. We are adding new uses like tidal and wind energy development and more undersea communications cables to our existing uses like fishing, shipping, and recreation. If we are going to both maintain the health of the ocean which provides the goods and services we depend upon and manage ocean uses so they are compatible, profitable and less prone to harm ocean health then we need to coordinate all new and old uses as best we can. Here in New England we have an active ocean planning process working to do just that.

In 2010 President Obama signed the Executive Order establishing the National Ocean Policy which calls for, among other things, regional ocean planning. This planning must involve better coordination of federal agencies and ocean users, be informed by the best available science and data, be conducted in a manner that considers the entire ocean ecosystem, not just discrete parts, and be open and transparent to all stakeholders.

New Englanders were well equipped for this new and important challenge, having created our own state plans in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council to help guide our regional efforts. Most recently, we have convened a Regional Planning Body to begin the real nuts and bolts work of putting together our nation’s first true regional ocean plan.

There is no doubt that the ocean is changing, that these changes will require resiliency and problem-solving to cope with, and that we are asking more and more of our ocean resources than ever before.  The best way forward is with a good plan, and we will continue to actively support these efforts in New England, and we hope you will too.

New England’s Ocean Planning Body is Taking Your Comments

Jul 9, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Photo Credit: Aural Asia via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Aural Asia via Compfight cc

This summer New England took another big step toward regional ocean planning as the newly minted Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) held 10 public meetings to get feedback on set of goals they have drafted. See our previous blogs for a discussion of the draft goals and how the planning process in New England is developing.

The public meetings took place from Maine to Connecticut and were attended by RPB representatives and hundreds of fishermen, members of conservation groups, offshore renewable energy developers, and others. Generally, each meeting began with short talk on what regional ocean planning is, then an overview of any ocean planning activities that were already taking place in a given state (for example, the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan and Rhode Island Special Area Management Plan). After that, several maps were presented to introduce the types of data that are being collected and used to inform ocean planning – shipping lanes, fishing data, and offshore energy siting among them. The public was then invited to walk around, look at the maps, and make comments or ask questions about them. This was followed by a guided public comment period on each of the goals.

The goals fall into three broad categories:

  1. Effective Decision Making
  2. Healthy Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems
  3. Compatibility Among Past, Current, and Future Ocean Uses

 

Several themes emerged throughout the meetings as people commented on each of the goals:

  • Cautious support of regional ocean planning. There seems to be broad support for the concept and recognition that better coordination is needed, but people are unsure of how ocean planning will change the way management decisions are currently made.
  • Concerns about maps and data. Maps are static and do not represent the dynamic nature of the ocean. Maps need incorporate historical data as well as projected future uses to effectively guide decision making. Data gaps need to be acknowledged, clearly communicated, and factored into decision-making. Robust data must be used, and the local scientific community should be involved.
  • Questions about scale and scope.  Regional efforts should include municipalities early in the planning processes – especially communities that are dependent on the ocean. Planning areas need to be clearly defined. Watershed-level planning and acknowledgement of the importance of estuaries to ocean health need to be incorporated. Ecosystem based management and social and economic factors should also be part of the planning.
  • Concerns from fishermen. Will regional ocean planning facilitate more new uses of the ocean at the expense of productive fishing grounds? Also, fishing is already highly regulated, will this process lead to more bureaucracy for fishermen to navigate?
  • Importance of meaningful stakeholder engagement. Not all industry and stakeholders groups were well represented at the public meetings. In order to ensure that all ocean and coastal user groups are aware of the process and have opportunities for full engagement, the RPB and various agencies need to put their full effort into outreach.
  • Compatibility of uses should be expanded to include cumulative impact. The advances in data, user patterns and scientific information give us the benefit of being able to better understand  the effects of ocean uses on ecosystems, habitats, and species, as well as the interplay among uses.

In response to many requests for more time, the comment period for the draft goals has been extended to July 26th. You can submit comments via standard mail, email, or online.

What’s next for ocean planning in New England?

According to Betsy Nicholson, the RPB Federal Co-Lead, “The RPB will spend the summer reviewing results from the public meetings and other public comments received to help revise and refine the draft goals document, and develop a draft work plan specifying necessary steps to accomplish our work. These two important aspects of this regional ocean planning effort—revised goals and the draft work plan—will be discussed at the next Regional Planning Body meeting to be schedule for this fall, and will be available prior to that meeting.”

The location and date of the next RPB meeting have not yet been announced, but given the progress that has been made by the RPB so far, there is reason to be optimistic that much will be accomplished.

Note: This was originally published on OpenChannels.org on July 8th, 2013. http://bit.ly/150xLCe

 

 

Seacoast Science Center and Conservation Law Foundation to Present “Ocean Frontiers” Film in Rye, NH on June 11th

Jun 4, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Ocean Frontiers PosterIf you are like me, you will take just about any excuse to go to the New Hampshire Seacoast – but we have a really great reason for you to head there next Tuesday evening:

Ocean enthusiasts and the community are invited to join the screening of Green Fire Productions film, “Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship.” This event, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 from 7:00-9:00PM at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, New Hampshire.

The evening will begin with a reception including coffee and cookies, and will feature educational materials from the event hosts. After the screening, there will be a Q&A discussion session moderated by Jennifer Felt, Conservation Law Foundation’s Ocean Planning Outreach Manager.

This event is free, however we request you RSVP online: http://www.ocean-frontiers.org/seacoast

This event is hosted by the Seacoast Science Center and Conservation Law Foundation, both members of the New England Ocean Action Network, a diverse group of organizations, individuals, and industries working together to promote new approaches to ocean management in our region based on collaboration, cooperation and sound science, and by Green Fire Productions.

Ocean Frontiers is an inspiring voyage to seaports and watersheds across the country where we meet industrial shippers and whale biologists, pig farmers and wetland ecologists, commercial and sport fishermen, and reef snorkelers—all of them embarking on a new course of cooperation to sustain our oceans and the economies that rely on them.

Green Fire Productions’ Executive Director and producer of Ocean Frontiers, Karen Meyer stated, “We are excited to present Ocean Frontiers to the New Hampshire Seacoast community. This film clearly conveys that win-win solutions are possible when industry, scientists, fishermen, conservationists, and government groups work together.”

“Ocean Frontiers wonderfully illustrates how very different stakeholders can come together and cooperatively make good decisions for our vital ocean resources,” said Priscilla Brooks, CLF’s Vice President and Director of Ocean Conservation. “If we are going to be more active and responsible stewards of our ocean, we will need robust public involvement, access to good scientific data, and better coordination between the many government agencies that manage our use of the ocean. CLF is very happy to be part of a growing movement to promote awareness of these important issues and collaboration in designing a comprehensive plan for the future of our ocean.”

Wendy Lull, President of the Seacoast Science Center, said, “We are proud to host New Hampshire’s premiere screening of Ocean Frontiers. As a non-profit marine science education organization, we want everyone to understand that a healthy ocean drives our quality of life. As so beautifully shown in the film, no matter where you live, what you do every day influences the health of the ocean, and ocean health impacts our daily lives–from weather, to what we eat, where we live and how we play. Ocean Frontiers heralds a new era of stewardship, and we hope you will join us for the film, for the discussion, and for the future of our seacoast and sea.”

A reception will precede the screening and will feature information and opportunities to learn more about what New Englanders can do to help support improved management of their ocean and coast. Online registration is requested: www.ocean-frontiers.org/seacoast

Hear What New Englanders are Saying about Ocean Planning – then Get Involved!

Jun 3, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

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Photo Credit: IronRodArt – Royce Bair (“Star Shooter”)

We are in the throes of a first-in-the-nation regional ocean planning process, and we need you to join those who are already taking part. The Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) is holding a series of public meetings throughout New England (find one near you here) to tell people what’s going on in ocean planning and to find out what your questions and comments are about the goals that they have developed, and their potential actions and outcomes. This process is much more effective and meaningful when people who care about the management of our ocean and coasts get involved.

There were two public meetings held last month – one in Portland, ME and one in Narragansett, RI. The meetings were well attended, and many people made comments and asked questions. Among the fishermen, renewable energy developers, and conservationists who spoke, several themes emerged:

  • People want a transparent process, where they know what is being planned before it happens, and they want to be involved in meaningful ways.
  • There should be careful review of the maps and data decision-makers are using to plan ocean uses.
  • People want to know what this planning process will look like, and how will it be used in a practical way.

There is a meeting tonight in Ellsworth and tomorrow night in Rockland, ME, this Thursday afternoon in Boston, and later this month in New Bedford, Gloucester, and Barnstable, MA, in New Haven, CT, and in Portsmouth, NH. See the full schedule and location details here. There are many ways to submit comments to the RPB even if you can’t go to a meeting.

Why should you get involved? There are so many reasons to appreciate New England’s ocean – amazing wildlife, gorgeous scenery, a natural playground to enjoy with our children – but there is also an unprecedented amount of change right now: renewable energy has hit the water, our fisheries are in tremendous flux and some of our most iconic and economically important stocks are in true peril, our waters are rapidly warming and getting more acidic, and we are seeing accelerating coastal erosion in some of our most heavily developed shorelines. The time is now to start making better decisions that will protect our ocean for future generations.

Do you care about the way our oceans are managed? Then come learn more about ocean planning and make your voice heard! Find a meeting near you and get involved.

Support for New England’s Ocean Planning Process Evident in D.C

May 31, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

 

Sean Cosgrove, CLF's Director of Campaigns speaks to the Blue VIsion Summit participants about the benefits of the National Ocean Poilcy.

Almost 200 attendees to the BVS IV prepared for a full day of discussing important ocean policy issues on Capitol Hill. Sean Cosgrove, of the Conservation Law Foundation, led a presentation on the benefits of the National Ocean Policy.

Over 200 ocean advocates from 23 states converged on Washington two weeks ago to deliver a very important message – full implementation of the National Ocean Policy is vital to ensure healthy and resilient oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes. The Blue Vision Summit which took place May 14- 16 was a gathering of ocean and coastal leaders, focused on finding solutions to the challenges facing our oceans. This year regional ocean planning was highlighted as one of those solutions and it was evident that New England is leading the charge.

During the three day conference packed with ocean themed workshops and Hill visits, key members of New England’s Congressional Delegation demonstrated enthusiastic commitment to working towards an ocean stewardship and planning model that will support healthy and economically valuable oceans for New England.

Senator Whitehouse from Rhode Island opened the Blue Vision Summit by thanking the conference participants for their work in support of the oceans and for bringing the message that ocean health is important, to Washington. The Senator highlighted that the health of the oceans is tied to the well being of our economy, particularly in coastal states like Rhode Island.

Senator Whitehouse returned the next night for the 2013 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards to present this year’s Excellence in Policy to Congressman Ed Markey from Massachusetts for his work to protect the ocean from the impacts of overfishing, climate change, and pollution. An award Senator Whitehouse received last year.

Congressional leadership and support of the NOP did not stop there for New England, Maine’s Shelly Pingree spoke to the participants of the Blue Vision Summit and reminded people that living on an island off the coast of Maine gives her a clear perspective on how so many jobs depend on having clean water and healthy oceans.

The workshop wrapped up with a call to action for people to return to their home states and continue to advocate for full implementation of the national ocean policy. New England is doing just that with a series of public meetings throughout New England to discuss regional planning draft goals

Help Shape the Future of New England’s Ocean and Coastal Economy

May 18, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Do you want to help shape the future of New England’s ocean and our coastal economy? New England leads the nation in regional ocean planning and now is the time for your thoughts on healthy oceans and coasts to be heard. A series of ten public meetings are being held in from late May through June to get your questions and ideas. Why should this matter to you? If you enjoy fishing, going to the beach, surfing, boating, or are interested in offshore renewable energy, these are all reasons to get involved in ocean use planning.

Starting next Thursday in Portland, ME, then continuing on through all New England’s coastal states, members of the Northeast Regional Planning Body (convened pursuant to the National Ocean Policy – which President Obama signed in June, 2010) which represents federal agencies, states and tribes will be holding public meetings to start a conversation about how our ocean waters should be used, conserved, better understood, and more effectively managed in the future.

At each meeting there will be presentations from Regional Planning Body (RPB) representatives about what regional ocean planning is, and how we might accomplish it in New England.

There will be a focus on a set of 3 draft goals, each of which has a series of potential outcomes and possible actions that could be taken to achieve these outcomes. The goals are in three broad categories – effective decision making, healthy ocean and coastal ecosystems, and compatibility among past, current, and future uses. The goals have been framed around the following principles:

1. The ocean and its resources are managed for the benefit of the public, now and in the future.

2. The historic, cultural, and spiritual importance of the ocean are important to consider.

3. The present and past connection between communities, watersheds, and ocean is important.

4. New ocean uses are emerging and existing ocean uses are changing.

5. There is concern about changing ocean “health” and ecosystem conditions.

6. Better data and information, including traditional knowledge, will lead to better understanding and decision making.

7. There is a need for improved government efficiencies and transparency.

8. We need to adapt as environmental, social and economic conditions change.

9. Importantly, regional ocean planning outcomes must be implemented through existing authorities and regulations. Neither the National Ocean Policy nor regional ocean planning create or change existing authorities.

After the RPB’s presentations, there will be significant time for public comment and discussion at each meeting.

So, find a meeting close to you, learn about the planning process, and help shape New England’s first ever regional ocean plan.

NEOAN Works to Keep New England’s Ocean Plan on Track

Apr 26, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

RichardNelson

NEOAN member Richard Nelson gives his comments at the Regional Planning Body meeting. Photo by Karen Meyer of Green Fire Productions.

New England Ocean Action Network (NEOAN)  was founded on the belief that improved management of our ocean and coasts will provide substantial benefits to all ocean users. This is why our membership is so diverse. We have fishermen, surfers, environmental groups, aquariums, and renewable energy industry representatives, all working together to promote regional ocean planning.

NEOAN members know that an important part of ocean planning is a robust public participation process, in which New England’s ocean and coastal users are fully engaged. This was the message delivered loud and clear by NEOAN members at New England’s second Regional Planning Body (RPB) meeting in Narragansett, Rhode Island April 11 and 12th. NEOAN was founded to promote public participation in this process – and NEOAN is participating. Seven members of NEOAN provided official comments to the RPB, emphasizing the importance of effective and meaningful stakeholder engagement.

NEOAN will continue our work to advocate for stakeholder participation as ocean planning activities in New England ramp up. The RPB will be hitting the road with a series of public meetings in late May/early June in each of the New England states. (Stay tuned here for more on that.) NEOAN will work to ensure that a diverse group of interests are present and have the opportunity to participate in these meetings. And NEOAN will advocate for more opportunities for meaningful participation, involvement, and information sharing by everyone who has a stake in how our oceans are managed.

Auspiciously, just a few days after New England’s RPB meeting, the National Ocean Council released the long-anticipated National Ocean Policy’s Implementation Plan. The White House press release announcing the release of the implementation plan quoted three NEOAN members:

“We who work on the water daily see the direct effects of changes caused by ocean acidification or increases in ocean temperatures. As a lobsterman I’ve come to think of the Gulf of Maine as being unique and precious, and deserving of all our efforts at stewardship and protection that the National Ocean Policy and Ocean Planning will enable.”
Richard Nelson, Lobsterman from Friendship, Maine

“We’re excited to see a final plan from the National Ocean Council that has real actions to protect our coasts and oceans. By providing support for ocean planning, the plan will help ensure that new industries like offshore wind power do not unnecessarily impact the marine ecosystem and human uses like recreation and fishing.”
Pete Stauffer, surfer and Ocean Program Manager with Surfrider Foundation,

“Full implementation of the National Ocean Policy is what we need to protect, maintain and restore New England’s ocean and coasts. Conservationists, fishermen, scientists, boaters, surfers, clean energy advocates and community leaders are all working together because we understand the value of stewardship and getting out ahead of ocean use conflicts by doing smart planning for our oceans.”
Priscilla Brooks, VP and Director of Ocean Conservation, Conservation Law Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts

NEOAN was created to support a better way of planning for the future of New England’s ocean. We are working hard to let our decision makers know that we care about keeping all stakeholders involved in the process. It’s good to know that we are being heard.

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