Comments Sought on Revised MA Ocean Management Plan

Comments Sought on Revised MA Ocean Management Plan
Photo Illustration/New England Boating

The Massachusetts Dept. of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) has released the first update to the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, which was created in 2009. Required by the Oceans Act signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2008, the plan is designed to protect critical marine habitat and important water-dependent uses, and sets standards for ocean-based development. The Oceans Act also requires that the plan be updated at least every 5 years.

In January 2013, EEA initiated the review and update of the existing ocean plan, led by EEA’s Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). These efforts were guided by input and advice from a 17-member Ocean Advisory Commission and 9-member Ocean Science Advisory Council.

Four public hearings were held on the plan update, in Boston, New Bedford, Gloucester and Barnstable. In addition, 6 technical work groups made up of nearly 100 scientists and experts were convened to review scientific data and identify and characterize important trends in ocean resources and uses on habitat, fisheries, sediment resources, recreational and cultural services, transportation and navigation, and energy and infrastructure.

The 2014 draft ocean plan, which was released September 24, contains the following proposed revisions:

Science and data. The draft identifies trends in and new data for ocean habitats and ecosystem components, human uses, economics, cultural and archeological aspects and climate change, as well as a series of 10 science and data priorities for the next 5 years of ocean plan implementation.

Offshore wind project transmission. The draft identifies preliminary transmission corridor routes for further investigation, addresses concerns raised by commercial fishing interests and local communities, and supports “smart” offshore wind development to streamline the process for the wind industry.

Offshore sand for beach nourishment. Recognizing that areas of many coastal communities are experiencing severe erosion, flooding and storm damage, and that beach nourishment and dune restoration can offer an important alternative for shoreline protection that works with the natural system, the draft identifies preliminary offshore sand resource areas for further investigation, with the goal of advancing up to 3 pilot projects in the next 5 years to evaluate the future use of offshore sand for shoreline protection.

The 2014 draft ocean plan is now available for public review and comment. The 60-day public comment period closes Nov. 25. Public hearings have been scheduled: Oct. 8 in Ipswich, Oct. 14 in Hyannis, Oct. 20 in New Bedford, Oct. 22 on Martha’s Vineyard and Oct. 27 in Boston.

Learn more about the revised Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan Draft.