Next on the Federal Agenda: Ocean Zoning

I know it’s hard to believe, but some of you may not have realized that today is World Oceans Day. In connection with World Oceans Day, Senator Jay Rockefeller has written a letter to the White House in support of the concept of “ocean zoning.” Senator Rockefeller will also be holding hearings on the issue tomorrow. Among those testifying will be Deerin Babb-Brott, who is the Assistant Secretary in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and is in charge of Massachusetts’ first in the nation ocean zoning effort.

The Massachusetts effort is based on the Oceans Act of 2008, which called for development of a comprehensive ocean management plan. In other words, ocean zoning. Since enactment of the Act, EOEEA has been working on developing the required plan, with assistance from the Ocean Advisory Commission, which was created by the Act to help guide EOEEA’s development of the plan. The plan has yet to issue and, based on recent documents from EOEEA, it may be some time before the final plan sees the light of day.

Notwithstanding the complexities of the issue – or perhaps because of them – Senator Rockefeller apparently believes that federal ocean zoning would be appropriate. He may be right. Issues such as renewable energy and deepwater aquaculture may be of local concern, but do we really want a patchwork of local laws and regulations dictating policy on issues of broad national concern?  If we go that route, it won’t be very long before there is a yet more complicated set of exemptions and preemptions.

I’m sure that Deerin will not be advocating federal preemption of local ocean zoning efforts, but there is a part of me that hopes that Deerin’s testimony is so effective that he talks himself out of a job.

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