The Comment Period is Over . . . So, What’s Next for the Northeast Ocean Plan?

Aimee Bushman

On Monday, July 25, the public comment period closed for the draft Northeast Ocean Plan. The summer saw an expansive public outreach effort by the plan creators, the Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB), with public meetings held in each coastal New England state. It’s a safe assumption that many are wondering, “What’s next for the Northeast Ocean Plan?”

During the course of its 60-day comment period, the RPB collected an enormous number of comments – both verbal and written – offering praise for the document as well as constructive input about how the draft ocean plan can be improved in terms of data, best agency practices, and commitments to better engage stakeholders.

With the comment period behind them, the RPB is currently compiling all of this public input for consideration, with a goal of producing a final draft for approval from the National Ocean Council by the end of this fall, before the end of the Obama administration.

But who exactly is in the National Ocean Council and how will the approval process happen?

The White House has stated that much of the president’s cabinet and many other influential individuals are members of the National Ocean Council, including:

  • Secretaries of: State, Defense, the Interior, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Labor, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security
  • Attorney General
  • Administrators of the EPA and NASA
  • Chairs of: The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • NOAA Administrator
  • and more

According to the Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force (the group charged with developing recommendations to enhance national stewardship of the ocean), once the final draft of the Northeast Ocean Plan is received by the National Ocean Council, the council will review the document to confirm that the plan achieves the following specifications:

  • Does the ocean plan comply with the tenets of the National Ocean Policy?
  • Does it achieve the goals and principles provided in the Interagency Task Force’s guidelines and recommendations?
  • Does the ocean plan align with the national objectives and guidance provided by the National Ocean Council?
  • Do the performance measures defined in the draft regional plan complement and parallel those established by the National Ocean Council?

In its final stages of editing, the RPB has a difficult task: They must balance public sentiment with the existing standards laid out by the National Ocean Policy and the Interagency Task Force. A challenge, yes, but we are confident that it can be achieved.

So, now we wait for a bit while the RPB reads feedback, deliberates, edits, and submits the final draft for approval. By this fall, we look forward to seeing the final draft of the Northeast Ocean Plan, and by the end of the year, we look forward to seeing the nation’s first regional ocean plan implemented.

Read more about the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan here.



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