Overview of the Oceans Act and Public Participation Process
We are here this evening to listen to your thoughts and suggestions about how the ocean waters of Massachusetts should be managed under the provisions of the Oceans Act of 2008. The agenda for this meeting is intentionally short on the presentation side-we are here to listen. Following introductory remarks, we will provide a brief overview on what the Oceans Act says, how we're developing the plan, and how we plan to work with the public in that process. We then will request public comment (written or spoken) on these issues.
The Bay State's 1,500-mile coastline and rich ocean waters have shaped our history, economy, and cultural identity. Historically, the ocean has supported recreational activity and tourism, fishing and shellfishing, shipping and trade, scientific research, and many other endeavors. More recent ocean uses in Massachusetts include aquaculture, liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, and high-speed ferries-and with energy and related environmental challenges facing the state and the nation, we are now looking to the ocean as a source of sustainable energy.
Until recently, management of ocean resources has been piecemeal-not only in Massachusetts, but nationwide. Now the tide is turning. On May 28, 2008, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Oceans Act of 2008, which requires the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop a comprehensive ocean management plan, following a scientific and public stakeholder process that leads to a draft plan by summer of 2009, and the final promulgation of the plan by December 31, 2009. Key elements of the Oceans Act include:
• Comprehensive management of Massachusetts waters - For the first time in any state, comprehensive science-based planning will be used to ensure long-term protection and sustainable use of ocean resources;
• Ocean Advisory Commission and Science Advisory Council - A 17-member commission will advise the Secretary as the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) develops the ocean plan. The commission includes state legislators, agency heads, commercial fishing, environmental, and renewable energy representatives, and coastal regional planning agencies. A nine-member Science Advisory Council will assist the Secretary in developing environmental, economic and social baseline data, and will help develop a foundation for long-term, science-based ocean management;
• Appropriately scaled renewable energy - The Ocean Sanctuaries Act is amended to allow offshore renewable energy facilities of "appropriate scale" in state waters, except for the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary (offshore from the Cape Cod National Seashore on the Outer Cape), provided that facilities are consistent with the ocean plan; and
• Fisheries management jurisdiction - The Oceans Act directs that commercial and recreational fishing remain allowed uses in state waters, and maintains exclusive jurisdiction over fisheries regulation with the Division of Marine Fisheries.
The Oceans Act requires the plan to have a spatial component: that is, the plan must identify areas suitable for uses, activities, conservation, and protection and related management (regulatory) measures intended to implement the plan. In terms of implementation, state agency actions-including the issuance of permits, licenses, and other regulatory approvals-are required to be consistent with the plan to the maximum extent practicable. The Oceans Act requires that the plan be publicly reviewed at least once every five years.
The Oceans Act sets out fifteen statements of principle for the plan by stating that the plan shall:
1. set forth the Commonwealth's goals, siting priorities and standards for ensuring effective stewardship of its ocean waters held in trust for the benefit of the public;
2. adhere to sound management practices, taking into account the existing natural, social, cultural, historic and economic characteristics of the planning areas;
3. preserve and protect the public trust;
4. reflect the importance of the waters of the Commonwealth to its citizens who derive livelihoods and recreational benefits from fishing;
5. value biodiversity and ecosystem health;
6. identify and protect special, sensitive or unique estuarine and marine life and habitats;
7. address climate change and sea-level rise;
8. respect the interdependence of ecosystems;
9. coordinate uses that include international, federal, state and local jurisdictions;
10. foster sustainable uses that capitalize on economic opportunity without significant detriment to the ecology or natural beauty of the ocean;
11. preserve and enhance public access;
12. support the infrastructure necessary to sustain the economy and quality of life for the citizens of the commonwealth;
13. encourage public participation in decision-making;
14. adapt to evolving knowledge and understanding of the ocean environment; and
15. identify appropriate locations and performance standards for activities, uses and facilities allowed in Ocean Sanctuaries.
Such statements of principle frame the goals of the plan and will, as informed by the public input process, help guide development of the plan. What we would like to hear from you is how you think the plan should achieve these goals.
Over the next few months, EEA will be collecting the scientific, public comment, and planning information - the raw materials - needed to begin developing a draft ocean plan. To that end:
• Public comment meetings will be held in coastal and inland communities;
• Work groups will acquire and analyze existing data and information regarding ocean resources in subject areas that include habitat, fishery resources, renewable energy, sediment management, recreational, cultural and historic resources, and navigation and infrastructure;
• The Ocean Advisory Commission will review public comment and draft planning materials developed by EEA; and
• The Science Advisory Council will identify data and assist in developing the short- and long-term science baseline of the ocean plan.
To review the Oceans Act, see more detailed planning materials, submit comments by e-mail, sign up to receive e-mail notices of ongoing planning activities, and view video recordings of each public comment meeting, please go to the following links:
• www.mass.gov/eoeea for the EEA ocean planning home page, background material, public meeting schedule, and other information. This page will be periodically updated.
• http://www.mass.gov/czm/oceanmanagement/oceans_act/index.htm for the text of the Oceans Act and related materials.
• www.massoceanplan.org to submit an on-line comment.
• To get on EEA's mailing list for the ocean plan, and for direct notice of public meetings, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Thank you for your time this evening. We look forward to hearing from you.
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