Beveridge & Diamond
 

Task Force Releases Interim Report Charting New Ocean Policy

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., October 9, 2009

On September 10, 2009, the newly-formed Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force released an interim report recommending a national ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes policy, an implementation strategy to meet suggested policy goals, and a coordination framework to ensure integration across jurisdictional lines.  The Interim Report of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force was issued just 90 days after President Obama established the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force on June 12, 2009, led by Nancy Sutley, Council on Environmental Quality Chair, and composed of senior government officials from the U.S. Committee on Ocean Policy.  President Obama instructed the Task Force to recommend a national policy that both ensures the protection, maintenance, and restoration of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and supports sustainable ocean and coastal economies, and a framework for coastal and marine spatial planning that addresses economic activity, conservation, user conflict, and sustainable use of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources.  The Interim Report is open for public comment until October 17, 2009.

The Proposed National Ocean Policy

In the Interim Report, the Task Force proposes a national policy that takes a comprehensive approach to stewardship that is a model of  “balanced, productive, efficient, sustainable, and informed ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes use, management, and conservation within the global community.”  To this end, the Task Force recommends several general principles including sustainable, secure, and productive uses of the oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes in a manner that prevents or minimizes adverse environmental effects, while also harmonizing competing ocean, coastal, and Great Lake uses.  To implement the draft national policy, the Interim Report advocates adopting an ecosystem-based management approach and utilizing coastal and marine spatial planning and management.  Task Force members believe that coastal and marine spatial planning is an objective way to balance ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes uses and reduce cumulative impacts on the water environment from multiple human uses.  The Task Force also identifies areas of special emphasis for implementation of its policy, including:  climate change and ocean acidification, regional ecosystem protection and restoration, and water quality and sustainable land use.

This Task Force is the latest effort in a series of recent efforts to finally develop a comprehensive U.S. oceans policy.  The Interim Report builds upon reports developed by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission in 2004 and 2003, respectively.  After the U.S. Commission concluded, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13366 establishing the U.S Committee on Ocean Policy to advise the President on implementation of ocean policies.  The new Task Force suggests modifying the structure of this existing Committee to give it a stronger mandate and direction.  It proposes creating a National Ocean Council co-chaired by the Council on Environmental Quality Chair and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.   

Marine Spatial Planning

In addition to the national policy mandate, President Obama directed Task Force members to recommend a comprehensive framework for coastal and marine spatial planning that addresses economic activity, conservation, user conflict, and sustainable use of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources by the end of 2009.  Marine spatial planning, an ecosystem management and planning tool that can be used to appropriately manage marine waters and minimize user conflicts, is used in Europe and is also being developed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, among other states.

Opportunities to Comment

The Task Force is accepting public comments on its Interim Report on its website until October 17, 2009.  Go to:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/
administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/oceans/interimreport/
.  The Interim Report and more information about the Task Force, as well as the President's June 12, 2009, memorandum are available at:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/oceans/.  The Task Force also hosted public meetings across the cournty to solicit feedback on what should be included in a national policy.  Hundreds of people attended the most recent meetings.  The final two meetings will be held in Cleveland, OH, and New Orleans, LA, and will be announced at:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/oceans.

For additional information about the Task Force's recommendations and next steps, please contact Peter Schaumberg (pschaumberg@bdlaw.com) or Ami Grace-Tardy (agrace@bdlaw.com).