Ocean plan establishes new protections for environmental resources, sets parameters for offshore wind energy development

BOSTON – [WorldofRenewables.com]

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Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles today released the nation’s first comprehensive plan to protect critical marine resources and foster sustainable uses in the state’s ocean waters. The ocean management plan – finalized six months after release of the draft plan, in accordance with the Oceans Act of 2008 – provides new protections for critical environmental resources in nearly two-thirds of the Commonwealth’s coastal waters and sets standards for the development of community-scale and commercial-scale offshore wind energy as well as other infrastructure.

“Just as we do with our development on land, we can and must plan for the long term when it comes to the development of the Commonwealth’s waters. With this ocean plan, Massachusetts is setting a national precedent as we protect our ocean environment while harnessing its renewable energy potential,” said Governor Deval Patrick.

Click here for the two-volume final ocean plan, as well as the draft plan and other background documents.

Compared with the draft plan, released July 1, the final ocean plan raises standards for the protection of the most sensitive marine species and habitats, allows for more community-scale wind energy development, creates a formal role for regional planning authorities in wind energy planning, and outlines a five-year, $2.5 million dollar research plan to be pursued in partnership with, and funded by, the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership, a private nonprofit group.

“For generations, the sea has sustained the Bay State – going forward, the Commonwealth will be a much better steward of these precious resources,” said Secretary Bowles. “The final ocean plan is the culmination of more than a year of assembling the best available science and engaging stakeholders to develop a far-ranging and precedent-setting blueprint for managing our ocean waters.”

On May 28, 2008, Governor Patrick signed the Oceans Act of 2008, passed with the strong support of Senate President Therese Murray and other legislative leaders, which required the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to develop a comprehensive ocean management plan, with a draft plan due by June 30, 2009 and a final plan promulgated by December 31, 2009. Governor Patrick also appointed a 17-member Ocean Advisory Commission (OAC) to assist Secretary Bowles in this task. In addition, Secretary Bowles appointed an Ocean Science Advisory Council (SAC) to assist him in the planning process. EEA published a draft of the plan on July 1 for an extensive public review and comment period, which closed on November 23. The plan was revised and finalized based on the over 300 written comments and testimony presented at five public hearings and 20 information meetings.

The final ocean management plan provides a comprehensive framework for managing, reviewing and permitting proposed uses of state waters. Previously, development in state waters has been handled on an ad hoc basis. The plan provides a roadmap for both environmental protection and sustainable use of ocean resources going forward…..

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Source: Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

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