The Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB), a collaboration among federal, state, and tribal partners along with other ocean users, is leading the nation in ocean planning efforts. Four years after its creation, a draft plan covering ocean and coastal waters from Connecticut to Maine is set for release in March 2016. This will be the United States’ first region-wide ocean plan, and a model for smarter approaches to managing our ocean.
In late October, the Northeast RPB hosted a stakeholder forum at the University of New Hampshire to gather feedback from a variety of ocean users regarding the outline of the draft ocean plan, prior to more detailed discussions with RPB member agencies at the November 16-17th RPB meeting. Both meetings brought together members of the public, industry, government, and tribes, seeking input on work products and guidance moving forward. RPB members used these meetings to update the public on their work over the summer and provided insight into the work products that will progress over the winter in advance of the draft plan release in March.
Overview of Recent Northeast Ocean Planning Activities
Key Materials Released:
Key materials were released ahead of the November meeting in Portland, Maine. Of particular importance are the draft of best practices for agency coordination and the components of important ecological areas.
October 20: Stakeholder Forum
A key principle of ocean planning is strong engagement of regional ocean users and local citizens. Continuing their effort to provide a platform for effective engagement, the Northeast RPB hosted a stakeholder forum where topics of discussion included the draft ocean plan outline and the ecosystem-based management work group. Valuable input was heard on the potential approaches and substance of the plan implementation and the science and research priorities of the draft plan.
November 16-17: RPB meeting
Building on the Stakeholder Forum, the November RPB meeting discussed the progress on data and agency early coordination actions; reviewed options and next steps for plan performance, monitoring, and ocean health indicators; outlined science and research priorities; discussed future responsibilities and commitments of the RPB; and, provided an opportunity for public input on the ocean plan.
Opportunity: Support Ocean Planning and Offshore Wind
The federal agency in charge of making offshore wind a reality, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), is a co-lead in developing the Northeast ocean plan. BOEM also recently asked the public how it can do a better job permitting offshore wind.
The answer? Make ocean planning a fundamental part of the way we plan for offshore wind. By the end of 2016, regional ocean plans will be complete in both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and we will have the opportunity to put them into action planning smarter for offshore wind.
Ask BOEM to utilize these plans as a key component of its offshore renewable energy program by signing our petition.
Mid-Atlantic Ocean Planning Continues
Like the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic RPB is deep into the process of crafting an ocean plan for the region. The Mid-Atlantic is several months behind the Northeast in its process, but aims to have a draft plan released by June 2016. As the release of these regional ocean plans draws closer, we look forward to reviewing and supporting their continued progress.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic here.