The Blog Aquatic » Regional Planning Body News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ocean-Use Planning Moves Forward In Mid-Atlantic As Anniversary of Sandy Approaches Tue, 24 Sep 2013 19:50:23 +0000 Christine Hopper

As the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approaches, we are all reminded of the importance of being prepared. This is true for our ocean as well, and the Mid-Atlantic region is moving forward with marine planning efforts to do just that. The first meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body is taking place this week, on Sept. 24-25 at Monmouth University in New Jersey.

During this inaugural meeting, “marine planning” is a phrase that’s likely to come up often. Marine planning creates a blueprint for our ocean and shorelines that provides a comprehensive picture of marine uses and activities within a region. With an ever-increasing amount of ocean users looking for places to operate, coastal communities are seeing their most precious resource threatened by ocean sprawl.

This meeting will serve as an opportunity for citizens including wind developers, fishermen, recreational boaters and conservationists to join state, federal and tribal officials from across the region to start discussing the creation of a plan for the ocean and coasts in the region that encompasses a five state area, from New York to Virginia.

Now is the time for any stakeholders that care about what happens in this region to step up and get engaged. By coordinating with these different parties to create the best plan for all, the regional planning body can create a clear, public blueprint to ensure that the area’s marine resources and services are best used, while minimizing user conflict and maintaining long-term ecological health.

New England led the way by holding its first regional marine planning meeting last fall.  There, citizens were able to voice their opinions and concerns while making recommendations for balancing the multiple uses of the region’s ocean waters. Richard Nelson, the captain of the Maine lobster fishing vessel Pescadero, said “It seems to be a worthwhile process. I’d like to see more fishermen here and more opportunities for them to be engaged.”

The Mid-Atlantic is the second region to move forward with ocean planning through this inaugural meeting. On the agenda is determining a five-year timeline for regional ocean planning, including an approach, process and timeline for public and stakeholder engagement.

Almost a year after the Mid-Atlantic was hit with the second-costliest hurricane in United States history, many residents still working to rebuild are looking toward this week’s meeting with an eye of optimism. As professional mariner Captain William Broadley from the Delaware Bay region put it, “The plans we are making now will affect how our coastal areas will be used for generations to come.” This meeting is just the first step in a process that will strengthen natural coastal defenses, protect resources, promote job growth and continue the post-Sandy restoration efforts.

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Air Traffic Control for the Ocean Fri, 16 Nov 2012 18:57:49 +0000 Susan Olcott

Map of sensitive habitats off the coast of New England. Click for a larger version.

At a given time, our air is filled with thousands of planes intersecting each other’s flight paths in a coordinated fashion. The same is true for our ocean and its industries – and a new map shows just that. The New England Ocean Action Network (NEOAN), a group of organizations supportive of ocean planning, created the map to illustrate just how many different activities occur in the ocean – ferry routes, shipping lanes, sanctuary boundaries, fishing grounds, whale habitat and proposed wind energy areas, to name a few. Imagine trying to coordinate these uses so that they don’t all end up on top of each other or harm to the ecosystem on which they depend.

This coordination is one of the goals of the National Ocean Policy. Each of nine regions around the country will establish a Regional Planning Body (RPB), comprised of representatives from state and federal agencies, tribal members and the regional fishery management council. These regional groups will be guided by local stakeholders and the public and will work to create a plan to guide the various uses of the oceans for its member states. The New England RPB will be holding its first meeting next week – the first official meeting of any around the country – to begin the creation of a plan for its coasts and oceans.

Mapping the uses and resources in a region is an enormous task in and of itself. To create the most thorough picture, input from those who use the oceans and know them best is essential. To that end, the RPBs will not only be filling in the maps, so to speak, but will work with a variety of people who care about the ocean for different reasons from recreation to storm protection to jobs.

New England is ahead of the game in many respects – two of its states, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, already have plans for their state waters. They have also begun coordinating across state boundaries to identify potential wind energy areas in both state and federal waters. The states created maps that allow planners to overlay things like areas of sensitive habitat and areas of high wind energy in order to avoid siting new developments in ways that would damage ecological resources. Now we need to create a regional ocean atlas that can do the same for all New England waters.

Given the variety of ocean uses in New England, along with new developments, such as renewable energy, it is not surprising that it is the first region to kick off the regional planning process. Much work lies ahead and the evolution of maps like these should become decision tools used to ensure a sustainable future for all our ocean resources.

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