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11. Ocean Sanctuaries Act
Authorities: M.G.L. c. 132A, §§ 12A-16F, 18: Ocean Sanctuaries Act; 302 CMR 5.00: Ocean Sanctuaries.
Jurisdiction: There are five Ocean Sanctuaries in Massachusetts waters including the Cape Cod, Cape Cod Bay, Cape and Islands, North Shore, and South Essex Ocean Sanctuaries. These include most state waters with the major exception of an area east of Boston Harbor. The landward boundary of the sanctuaries is the mean low water mark and the seaward boundary is the limit of state waters, generally three miles offshore. The boundaries are statutory and are described at M.G.L. c. 132A, § 13. Jurisdiction is over any activity that would seriously alter or endanger the ecology or appearance of Ocean Sanctuaries or the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Applicability: Structures and activities that significantly alter the ecology of the Ocean Sanctuaries are prohibited except as they may be allowed under section 302 CMR 5.08 of the Ocean Sanctuaries regulations.
Regulatory Summary: The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) administers the Ocean Sanctuaries Program. The Act prohibits activities that may significantly alter or endanger the ecology or appearance of the ocean, seabed, or subsoil of sanctuaries or the Cape Cod National Seashore. To accomplish this goal the Act prohibits (1) building structures on or under the seabed; (2) construction or operation of offshore or floating electrical generating stations; drilling or removal of sand, gravel (except for the purposes of beach nourishment), other minerals, gases, or oils; (3) dumping or discharge of commercial, municipal, domestic or industrial wastes; (4) commercial advertising; and (5) incineration of solid waste or refuse on vessels within sanctuary boundaries. These prohibitions may be waived if a finding of “public necessity and convenience” can be made for the proposed project or activity. Under the Ocean Sanctuaries Act, CZM does not issue any licenses or permits but acts through the regulatory process of other agencies, particularly the Chapter 91 Waterways Program (21).
Review Process: There is no separate Ocean Sanctuaries review process. Ocean Sanctuaries staff comment on Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) (15) filings and on MassDEP Chapter 91 (20) license applications during the respective public comment periods. Proposals that are below MEPA thresholds are presumed to comply with the Ocean Sanctuaries Act. A project that receives a Chapter 91 License is presumed to comply with the Ocean Sanctuaries Act.
Forms: No additional forms are required for an Ocean Sanctuaries review.
Fees: No additional fees are required for an Ocean Sanctuaries review.
Contact: CZM Ocean Sanctuaries Coordinator (617) 626-1050.
Publication Date: Fall, 2003
A publication of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award No. NA170Z2338. This publication is funded (in part) by a grant/cooperative agreement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or any of its sub-agencies.