Massachusetts Releases First in the Nation Ocean Management Plan

Earlier this week, Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles announced the release of the nation’s first ocean management plan. The plan is similar, but not identical to, the draft plan issued last July. Here are the highlights

A Prohibited Area off the coast of the Cape Cod National Seashore, where most uses will be – you guessed it – prohibited

Multi-Use Areas, constituting approximately two-thirds of the planning area, where uses will be permitted if they comply with stringent standards for protecting marine resources

Renewable Energy Areas, where commercial- and community-scale wind projects have been found to be appropriate.

One significant element of the final plan, and one highlighted in Secretary Bowles’s press release, is that, where projects are proposed in areas including sensitive marine resources, it will be presumed that an alternative project outside the resource area would be less environmentally damaging. Project proponents would have to meet a balancing test, demonstrating that the project has public benefits which outweigh the detriment to the resource.

It’s going to take some time to digest the entire plan. However, most of the nation outside Houston has accepted the concept of zoning on land for almost 100 years – and land-based zoning affects private property. It’s difficult to argue with the concept that the Commonwealth should plan for resources – state waters – that it does own. In addition, having a defined framework for reviewing proposals to utilize state waters should help remove some of the uncertainty associated with the current ad hoc review that necessarily occurs in the absence of a plan. 

Deerin Babb-Brott – time to take a well-earned vacation!

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