NOTE: the official public comment period on the Draft Plan closed on September 6, 2016.
The Draft Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan (Draft Plan) was recently released for public review by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (MidA RPB), a group made up of representatives from six states, federal and tribal entities and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
The Draft Plan, which is open for public comment through September 6, 2016, aims to ensure healthy, productive, and resilient marine ecosystems and sustainable ocean uses from New York through Virginia. Developed by the MidA RPB, it is the culmination of collaborative discussions since 2013 and outlines a suite of actions for improving collaboration on decision making for ocean waters of the Mid-Atlantic.
The Draft Plan is available online and the public may formally submit comments via the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) website at http://www.boem.gov/Ocean-Action-Plan. In addition, the public is encouraged to share their reactions to the Draft Plan on social media using the hashtags #MidAOceanPlan and #OceanPlanning.
Working collaboratively to advance regional ocean planning as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO), the states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia play an instrumental role in supporting the region’s process for gathering and reviewing data on ocean resources and uses, as well as engaging ocean users, tribes and the general public in an ocean planning process.
“The planning process has given the states a seat at the table regarding the use of offshore ocean resources,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Director of Ocean and Coastal Management and MidA RPB State Co-Lead Gwynne Schultz. “The Draft Plan provides an exciting opportunity to raise public awareness and to influence proposed projects and actions in federal waters, streamlining how government agencies work with each other and stakeholders.”
The five MARCO member states began identifying common interests in 2009, after a Governors’ Agreement formed the MARCO partnership to enhance the vitality of the region’s ocean ecosystem and economy. The states jointly recognize ocean planning as a potential tool for moving common regional priorities forward and, as MARCO, have played an instrumental role in the regional planning process. MARCO’s contributions to the Draft Plan have included:
- Convening entities and stakeholders throughout the region to help inform the ocean planning process.
- Facilitating the compilation and synthesis of data and information on marine resources, habitats and human uses.
- Developing the MARCO Ocean Data Portal (http://portal.midatlanticocean.org), an interactive ocean mapping and information website focused on the Mid-Atlantic coast.
- Hosting a series of five regional Open House Public Listening Sessions in July 2016 to share information about and to receive informal public input on the Draft Plan.
“The MARCO Ocean Data Portal provides a public resource that puts maps and data from a variety of federal agencies and other vetted sources in one easy to use website location,” said Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program Manager Laura McKay, who also serves as Chair of the MARCO Management Board and as a member of the MidA RPB. “Never before have we been able to explore from a regional perspective, the transboundary spatial relationships between species, habitats and human activities,” McKay stated.
This process also helped establish a new two-way dialogue between those who use the ocean and the agencies and entities that make decisions about long-term sustainable management.
“The Mid-Atlantic states will benefit in the long-term from the improved relationships with ocean stakeholders who have been given a new opportunity to provide data and feedback to the regional ocean planning process, bringing a louder voice to key issues of concern from coastal communities and ensuring that decision-makers have an improved understanding of the opportunities and limitations of currently available data sets,” said Greg Capobianco, New York Department of State and MidA RPB member.
Following the public comment period, the Plan will be submitted to the National Ocean Council for concurrence. Upon finalization, the region expects to benefit from the Ocean Action Plan through improved coordination, data availability and outreach opportunities.