2014 Symposium: Marine Planning

2014 Symposium: Marine Planning

By: Spencer Piatt

The Marine Planning panel, moderated by Cymie Payne, Assistant Professor at Rutgers University and Rutgers School of Law, provided insight into marine planning by comparing the varying approaches of the United States, the State of Oregon, and Canada. Marine planning, which has been described as “a tool developed from the bottom up to improve collaboration and coordination among all coastal and ocean interests,” has received relatively less attention than other areas of federal land planning in the United States despite the obvious importance of ocean resources and the fact that the United States has more ocean territory than land territory.

Robin Craig, Professor of Law at the University of Utah, set the stage with a brief overview and comparative analysis of federal public lands and marine planning in the United States.  His historical outline illustrated that Marine planning lags far behind—about 40 years behind—most areas of federal land planning. There are, however, numerous parallels between early federal land planning and the current state of marine planning.  For example, forest management and planning evolved largely in response to public and governmental recognition that the patchwork of fragmented and outdated laws affecting forest management were no longer meeting public needs.  Federal statutes like the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 were enacted to facilitate comprehensive land-use planning for forests and other important resource areas.

Marine planning is starting to receive appropriate attention at the federal level, but still remains fragmented and underdeveloped.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency charged with protection and management of ocean resources, has no organic statute and no planning mandate.  One of the clear takeaways from the panel was the need for more centralized governance.  Professor Craig described U.S. ocean governance as a “hodgepodge” of individual regulations—a fitting description for a resource governed by 140 federal laws, 11 departments, 4 independent agencies, and 46 sub-agencies.

Fortunately, the outlook for ocean planning is not entirely bleak.  President Obama’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, commissioned 2009 to develop a National Oceans Policy, represented a significant step forward for the United States.  More recently, in April 2013, the National Ocean Council released its Final Implementation Plan and regional planning bodies are currently working to develop regional ocean management plans.  These regional bodies have made early progress, but it is clear that the United States has a long way to go to achieve its marine planning goals.

Gabriela Goldfarb, the Natural Resources Policy Director of the Oregon Governor’s Natural Resources Office, compared Oregon’s approach to marine planning to the emerging federal framework.  Oregon’s marine planning began in the 1960s in response to public concern over beaches and other coastal resources, declining marine fisheries, and a desire to exploit seabed resources.  In recent years, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s permitting program for wave energy generation has hastened planning.  Over thirty years, Oregon developed numerous policy tools, conducted comprehensive studies, and engaged key stakeholders, resulting in the Territorial Sea Plan in 1994.  Most importantly, the Plan set important ocean management goals and established a process for making resource use decisions.  Part V of Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan, approved in 2013, provides a comprehensive management plan that includes policies and maps that govern how ocean resources will be used, including area designations dictating where renewable energy development will be allowed. Overall, Oregon’s governance model has been a success story and its approach may provide a useful model for federal marine planning.

Finally, David VanderZwagg, Professor of Law at Schulich School of Law, gave a presentation detailing Canada’s challenges in moving toward an integrated model of marine governance and planning.  Canada has made significant progress on some fronts—the Oceans Act of 1996 has led to the designation of eight marine protected areas, demonstrating a commitment to marine spatial planning.  The shipping and fishing sectors, in particular, have made progress in designated spatial planning.  Currently, however, only one percent of Canada’s federally managed oceans are designated as marine protected areas; developing a fully operational marine protected network will likely take decades, despite the Ocean Act’s clear mandate to establish these protected areas.  Major challenges to governance include: a lack of detail and “legal teeth” in the Oceans Act, the difficulty in practice of implementing management planning, protecting ecologically and culturally significant areas in the Artic, and addressing marine planning in the transboundary context.  Like the United States, Canada must make marine planning a priority in coming years to ensure effective management of its ocean resources.

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