Ocean Planning in the Northeast

Website for the Northeast Regional Planning Body Northeast RPB Projects Government Coordination

Government Coordination

The regulatory authorities of the waters off the coast of New England are complex—a mosaic of state, local, tribal, and federal agencies all have jurisdiction over certain areas and activities. New ocean uses may fall under multiple authorities, or may lack clear oversight. There must be a clear and transparent process by which each distinct, yet interconnected ocean uses—and distinct, but related regulatory authorities—can coexist and work together. Ocean planning provides opportunities to improve the implementation of these existing authorities and coordination among government agencies, especially as new uses of the ocean are considered.

The federal-state partnership through the Coastal Zone Management Act has been one of the focal points in recent discussions. The NOAA Office of Coastal Management developed this Discussion Paper (PDF) (23pp, 20k) with potential options.

What’s Been Done

At its January 2014 meeting, the RPB committed to a goal of “effective decision making,” building on extensive public input and RPB member discussion. To more fully define potential options to reach this goal, ocean planning staff convened a series of RPB and stakeholder discussions in early- through mid-2014. These discussions resulted in a summary document outlining potential options for RPB and public discussion. The RPB convened a series of public meetings in the fall of 2014 to discuss these options in advance of its November 2014 meeting.

At its November 2014 meeting, the RPB decided to move ahead with several options for this issue.

  1. Continued development of information for use in agency decision-making, with a focus on data related to:
    • Marine mammals
    • Fish
    • Avifauna
    • Aquatic vegetation (e.g., eelgrass)
    • Geologry and hydrodynamics
    • Cultural resources
    • Commercial fishing
    • Recreation
    • Energy
    • Aquaculture
  2. Continued development of information for use in agency decision-making, with a focus on data related to:
    • Applications of data in approaches to consultation through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and existing regulatory programs
    • Best practices for tribal consultation
    • Permitting pre-application best practices
    • Development of internal agency guidance and agreements on the use of data
    • External guidance on how agencies will use plan data
  3. Opportunities to apply ocean plan data and guidance on implementation of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), including:
    • Enhancing federal noticing procedures to states
    • Applying CZMA federal consistency procedures to routine, minor federal development review actions in federal waters
    • Requesting guidance from NOAA on the application of the coastal effects test in the context of data and information needs that could be provided through the regional ocean plan
  4. Specific agency coordination on emerging uses such as sand and gravel extraction and aquaculture in federal waters.

Next Steps

Interagency discussions to further refine the options described above will continue in early 2015. The RPB will review progress at its June 2015 meeting and stakeholder forum. Data development efforts continue on a similar schedule.

Northeast RPB News

Northeast RPB to hold May 2 Stakeholder Forum

April 26, 2017—The RPB will hold a Stakeholder Forum on May 2.

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Ocean Planning Timeline

  • November 2012 Inaugural Northeast RPB Meeting: Develop common understanding about the RPB; provide context and lay foundation of regional ocean planning; engage stakeholders and the public, discuss initial focus.
    April 2013 Northeast RPB Meeting: Northeast RPB Meeting: Identify draft goals for regional ocean planning and mechanisms for receiving public input about those draft goals; provide opportunities for public input about topics under consideration.
    May/June 2013 Public Comment Meetings: Ten public meetings throughout New England to discuss draft regional ocean planning goals.
  • January Northeast RPB Meeting: approve goals and objectives; move forward on related tasks.
    May/June Public Engagement: Natural Resources Workshops and focused engagement to discuss progress toward goals of effective Decision-Making and Healthy Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems.
    June Northeast RPB Meeting: Review progress toward all goals.
    Fall Public meetings/workshops and Northeast RPB meeting: Feedback on progress toward each goal.
  • Spring Stakeholder Forum: Review progress on the use of marine life and ocean use data, regulatory coordination, and future scenario development.
    June Northeast RPB Meeting: Review approach to developing draft plan by considering agency use of ocean plan data products; discuss draft outline for regional ocean plan.
    Fall Northeast RPB meeting and public meetings: Review revised products for each goal; discuss future work of the RPB.
  • Winter EBM Working Group: Review progress on Draft Northeast Ocean Plan, marine life and habitat data product development, including IEAs Framework.
    Spring Northeast RPB Meeting (via webinar): Release Draft Plan for public review.
    Summer Collect public comment on the Draft Plan through public meetings and other opportunities.
    Fall September public webinar to review changes to the Draft Plan and October submittal of revised Plan to the National Ocean Council.
  • Winter Northeast RPB members and federal principals of the National Ocean Council sign Plan Adoption Memo.
    Spring See Events and Meetings
    April Informational webinar to prepare for stakeholder forum.
    May Stakeholder forum and RPB public meeting.

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