The Washington coastal premiere of Ocean Frontiers II: A New England Story for Sustaining the Sea brings audiences face-to-face with those now embarking on the nation’s first multi-state ocean plan. The film prominently features Rhode Island and is an inspiring story of citizens coming together to promote healthier economies and healthier seas across New England.
Two screenings of the film are being offered thanks to Washington Sea Grant:
- March 17th at the Aberdeen Museum of History in Aberdeen, WA from 6-7:30pm. Hosted by the Grays Harbor County Marine Resources Committee.
- March 24th at the Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco, WA from 6-7:30pm. Hosted by the Pacific County Marine Resources Committee.
After the free public screening, join Washington Sea Grant and other sponsors for a discussion about Washington’s marine water management activities.
Ocean Frontiers II highlights the historic and emerging ocean uses of New England waters and introduces viewers to people working on the Northeast regional ocean planning initiative. In a region steeped in old maritime tradition, we see a modern wave of big ships, energy industries, and a changing climate, now testing the limits of an already crowded sea. But in a pioneering trial of far-sighted planning—pushed by blueprints for offshore wind energy — old residents and new are coming together to keep their ocean and livelihoods alive.
This film reveals how Rhode Island citizens were able to put aside their differences and create a plan that reduces conflicts over ocean resources and protects their livelihoods.
For more information, view the film trailer, visit the event website, become a friend of Ocean Frontiers on facebook or twitter, or contact Washington Sea Grant’s Kevin Decker.
Would a marine renewable energy project be allowed within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS or Sanctuary)?
Unlikely at this time. Marine renewable energy projects are not explicitly prohibited by sanctuary regulations, but project components that would disturb or place a constructed object on the seafloor would require a sanctuary permit. OCNMS has the authority to issue permits and may consider issuing a permit for marine renewable energy projects as long as the project will not substantially injure sanctuary resources and qualities, and is found to satisfy the sanctuary’s criteria for permitted activities. Currently, marine renewable energy technology is in early stages of development, and environmental impacts have not been evaluated sufficiently to justify a sizeable installation in a national marine sanctuary. The sanctuary could also consider an application to authorize, and potentially condition, other federal or state authorizations.
The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary protects the Olympic Coast’s natural and cultural resources through responsible stewardship, conducts and applies research to preserve the area’s ecological integrity and maritime heritage, and promotes understanding through public outreach and education.
OCNMS requires a permit when an individual or organization wishes to conduct an activity within the sanctuary that is prohibited by sanctuary regulations. Prohibited activities include low altitude overflights, seafloor disturbances, constructing or placing any structure on the seafloor, and discharging or depositing any material. However, whether OCNMS chooses to issue a permit or authorization is dependent upon a number of project-specific factors including:
- Assessment of the potential injury to the sanctuary resources and qualities
- Professional qualifications and finances of the applicant
- Duration of the project
- Cumulative effects
- Impacts of the activity on adjacent tribes
Permits may be issued for projects that will not substantially injure sanctuary resources and qualities and will further one of the following:
- Research related to Sanctuary resources and qualities
- Education, natural or historical resource value of the Sanctuary
- Salvage and recovery operations
- Archeological understanding
- Tribal self-determination and government functions, exercise of treaty rights, economic development, or other tribal activities
OCNMS includes conditions in permits and authorizations to ensure that an approved project has minimal negative impacts to the marine environment.
OCNMS and Marine Spatial Planning (MSP)
OCNMS and Washington State agency staffs work to coordinate their efforts on coastal priorities. Just as Washington agency staff assisted OCNMS in revising their management plan, sanctuary staff has been assisting in the marine spatial planning process. OCNMS has recommended that the sanctuary management plan be integrated into the MSP and that OCNMS be included within the geographic scope of the MSP. Sanctuary staff participate on the Washington Coast Marine Advisory Council (WCMAC) technical committee and supported work on sector analyses, worked to enhance the recreational use study, supported a joint habitat mapping project, and are supporting the planned Seafloor Mapping Prioritization Initiative.
For more information, visit:
What does Washington seek to gain from the MSP process?
Ocean planning can benefit a wide range of stakeholders and partners. Planning processes typically focus on identifying existing and emerging uses, reducing conflicts among users, reducing environmental impacts, and increasing coordination among state, tribal, and federal agencies.
Washington expects to gain the following from its MSP process:
- Improved baseline information on the marine environment and current uses like fishing, shipping, recreation, and aquaculture;
- Improved coordination among governments, include improved integration of existing policies and management;
- Analyses to support decision-making;
- Recommendations for siting new ocean uses, including protections for current ocean users and ocean environments;
- A clearer, more predictable framework for agencies to communicate about and respond to new ocean uses;
- Increased scientific research and the ability to adapt the plan based on new information.
Similar benefits have been observed by coastal states that have completed a Marine Spatial Plan and have been recognized by the National Ocean Policy. Washington expects these types of improvements to benefit ocean users, the marine industry, tribal governments, fishermen, and all recreational users.
Washington State’s law also articulates several broad principles for developing a marine spatial plan such as engaging the public and stakeholders; recognizing and respecting tribal treaty rights and existing uses; protecting working waterfronts; encouraging sustainable economic opportunities; enhancing public access; and restoring ecosystem health.
For more information, visit the National Ocean Policy website or read Marine Spatial Plans from other states.
The planning process identified many activities that occur in Washington’s marine waters. How will information about those activities be used in the planning process?
To avoid and minimize significant adverse impacts from potential future activities, current marine activities are identified, mapped, and researched throughout the planning process. An intent of the marine spatial plan is to ensure that future marine activities can successfully coexist with other activities and to help maintain a productive, healthy environment.
In order to do that, stakeholders and the state will evaluate conflicts between each type of activity and identify areas to avoid during future developments. Areas that are potentially suitable for new activities and areas that could benefit from potential new uses will also be identified through the planning process.
The plan will include information that helps managers avoid or minimize impacts to current marine activities when potentially siting future marine activities. State, local, and tribal governments can use this information when their authorities are triggered by a specific project proposal.
For more details, see the SEPA document and the MSP Actions List.
What state agencies are involved in the planning process and what is their role?
A state law requires an interagency team of state natural resource agencies to develop a marine spatial plan. Washington is using an existing interagency team, the State Ocean Caucus, to conduct Marine Spatial Planning.
The team is chaired by the Governor’s office and coordinated by the Department of Ecology. Representatives on the planning team include staff from the Washington State Governor’s Office, the Departments of Ecology, Natural Resources, and Fish and Wildlife, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, Washington Sea Grant, and many others. Each agency manages different aspects of marine activities and resources and brings unique perspectives and authorities to the planning process. Marine Spatial Planning can integrate and complement existing resource management and improve coordination between agencies.
For more information about the role of each agency, see the MSP website.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife just released results from a monthly, two year survey of Washington’s outer coast which identifies forage fish spawning grounds. Results from each year were integrated to provide a comprehensive evaluation of all seasons.
- Sampled 89% of possible spawning habitat on the outer coast,
- Documented 40 spawning sites,
- Found smelt eggs at 32 sites
- Classified 20 sites as surf smelt spawning grounds,
- Documented 10 new spawning sites,
- Discovered several spawning events occurring during the spawning season.
Forage fish play a critical role in the marine food web as mid-level pray and are harvested by subsistence, recreational, and commercial fishers in Washington. In recognition that coastal Indian Tribes are co-managers, surveys were collaboratively conducted with members and employees of the Hoh, Makah, Quileute Indian Tribes, and Quinault Indian Nation.
Read the final report
More information on WDFW and forage fish
What is the driving force behind MSP?
In 2010, Washington State Legislature adopted a state law for marine planning (RCW 43.372) in response to local and national-level issues. At the time, a number of local proposals for marine renewable energy projects raised concerns about the impacts to existing marine uses and the environment as well as the lack of a proactive plan to address how and where this new use should occur. At the national level, the President Obama’s National Ocean Policy identified developing marine spatial plans for large marine ecosystems around the country as one of nine ocean priorities. Washington’s law provides a way for the state agencies to proactively plan for potential marine uses such as marine renewable energy and to ensure that Washington’s plan and priorities are represented in any future planning efforts in the region.
In July 2012, the state legislature provided funds for the state to create a Marine Spatial Plan on Washington’s Pacific Coast. MSP development activities have included collecting data, mapping uses and resources, performing an ecosystem assessment, developing data tools, and engaging stakeholders. For information on the variety of projects funded, visit the MSP Projects page.
Will the plan create new regulations?
No, the plan will not create new regulations. The Marine Spatial Plan addresses the need for coordinated decision-making across entities by providing common information, analyses, and recommendations for potential uses that support decisions. It will also provide mechanisms for coordinating review of proposals and implementing the plan across agencies. The plan does not supersede existing laws and must be implemented through existing state and local authorities.
According to the state law: “No authority is created under this chapter to affect in any way any project, use, or activity in the state’s marine waters existing prior to or during the development and review of the marine management plan. No authority is created under this chapter to supersede the current authority of any state agency or local government.” (RCW 43.372.060)
For more details, see the SEPA document.
Why was the study area chosen?
The selection of the study area for the Marine Spatial Plan was guided by the criteria recommended by NOAA for establishing coastal effects from federal activities to Washington’s coastal resources or uses. In particular, the study area:
- Is based on where potential new federal activities are technically feasible and that are reasonably expected in the next 15 years. For example, while technology requirements vary by type, all renewable energy technologies appear to be limited to within 20 to 25 miles of shore in the near future. The study area is well beyond this distance from shore.
- Is an area where effects are reasonably foreseeable on Washington’s coastal uses or coastal resources. This geography covers the area where potential impacts are most likely from potential new uses or activities. It is also the area with the highest intensity of existing coastal uses and many ecological resources with connections to Washington’s coastal zone.
- Is ecologically meaningful and ecologically connected to Washington’s coastal zone. The study area encompasses ecological functions, processes and important resource areas such as upwelling, currents, and important feeding and migration areas and habitats. The ecological processes and functions in these areas have important connections to nearshore ecological processes, but are more distinct from farther offshore pelagic and abyssal areas of the ocean.
- Maximizes use of existing data and information available. The amount of information available is much greater shoreward of 700 fathoms, including recent management plans and Environmental Impact Studies. Significantly less information is available beyond 700 fathoms.
For background information on the study area selection, see the SEPA scoping document.
What new or expanded uses are being researched for the plan?
The marine spatial plan will address the following five potential uses in Washington’s marine waters:
- Marine renewable energy such as offshore wind, wave, or tidal.
- Dredge disposal in new locations.
- Aquaculture in new locations including offshore.
- Mining or mineral extraction.
- Marine product extraction for cosmetic or pharmaceutical uses (sometimes also called bioextraction).
It is the aim of the plan to ensure that future developments related to these marine activities and uses are appropriately sited such that existing activities and new development can successfully coexist, while maintaining a productive, healthy marine ecosystem. The plan will seek to evaluate and identify areas that these new uses should avoid, areas that are potentially suitable for new uses, and preferred areas for these potential new uses. The core of the plan will be to understand, avoid and minimize impacts to important areas for existing, sustainable uses and to sensitive environmental areas.
For more details, please see the list of MSP goals, with their associated objectives and actions and the SEPA document.