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Ocean Stewardship & National Ocean Policy
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NE Ocean Planning Group Opens Data Portal for Public Comments

The Northeast Regional Planning Body’s Draft Ocean Plan has been released. I attend the presentation roll-out Q and A in Gloucester.  Subsequently, the Gloucester Times has published my commentary.

Column_ Expanding the fisherman’s voice _ Opinion _ gloucestertimes

It is remarkable to have all of this robust data and information in one place. With 150 species of marine life, the data portal is full of science and research that has been thoroughly validated. Anyone reading the plan can add comments or observations, and make note of any perceived gaps in the information. It allows us, for the first time ever, to break down siloes of information that have existed across the numerous state and federal agencies that manage our oceans.

Check it out before the July 25 comment deadline. You can submit your thoughts online at neoceanplanning.org/plan.  It’s like making stone soup, the more you put in, the better the information broth.

The Northeast Ocean Plan will be implemented in the fall of 2016 provided a coordination mechanism for all the agencies (11 federal, 11 state, and 10 tribal groups) is determined.

Victory for Oceans – the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 Becomes Law

“This bill gives a green light to 34 water infrastructure projects across the country, including projects to deepen Boston Harbor and the Port of Savannah and to restore the Everglades,” Obama said before signing the act into law.

Over 13,000 of you signed ORI’s letter to urge Congress to pass a strong Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) that maintains the standards of the National Ocean Policy, allows the Army Corps of Engineers to participate in regional ocean planning, and funds vital coastal restoration and protection projects.

We organized your signatures and comments by state and town. Printed and bound, they were hand-delivered to Senator Boxer’s office and Senator Whitehouse’s office. The Senators were very pleased that everything was arranged by state and found your comments very helpful as they negotiated the contents of the final bill.

The legislation authorizes $12.3 billion for 34 water projects across the country. For the Boston Harbor, it means a $310 million project to dredge the Boston Harbor can move forward. It authorizes many coastal restoration projects, many of them badly needed in coastal states like Louisiana. It’s the first major water bill to be signed into law since 2007.

Absent from the bill is the harmful Flores Rider to block the US Army Core of Engineers from working with coastal states on ocean planning to stall many important restoration projects. While we did not get the National Endowment for the Oceans, the bill does create a Coastal Resiliency Program to fund coastal restoration projects that help the economy and restore vital ecosystems. 

Why WRRDA Victory is Important

Our nation’s economy, culture and way of life all benefit from healthy oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. These waters are home to some of the world’s most unique and valuable wildlife areas and serve as refuge for endangered wildlife species. Our ocean, coasts and Great Lakes have been degraded by pollution, overfishing, climate change, and are facing a growing number of challenges.

Sea levels are rising 3-4 times faster along the east coast than the global average and now there are “Super Storms.” More frequent and bigger storms, along with rising waters, put our nation’s many coastal cities and towns at risk for flooding and beaches and wetlands to deterioration. Overloading of carbon from the atmosphere is causing the ocean to acidify, which kills shellfish and damages coral reefs and is an additional stress on commercially valuable fish. Excessive runoff of nitrogen from fertilizers is creating massive toxic algae blooms and ocean dead zones. Plastic trash is being ingested by ocean birds, turtles, and fish.  Ocean warming from climate change is shifting currents causing ecosystems to disassemble, and overfishing is still a problem.

We need WRRDA to support agencies working together on coastal management to address these growing threats to our ocean and coasts.

Thanks to the National Ocean Policy and Regional Ocean Planning programs, we have a ways to make decisions about how we protect and use our ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources through the best data, latest information and, most importantly, by working together.

Regional marine planning is a collaborative well-informed process of improving decisions about ocean and coastal resources before conflict arises. The process involves everyone who has a stake in ocean and coastal management, including towns and cities, recreational users, fishermen, conservation groups, and businesses.

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