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Managing Marine Resources in Oregon’s Territorial Sea and Ocean Stewardship Area: The importance of environmental information in planning and decision making

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  • Oregon has a strong framework for ocean planning rooted in the adoption of Oregon’s Ocean Resources Goal 19 in 1976. Goal 19 establishes that it is the State of Oregon’s policy to conserve marine resources and ecological functions for the purpose of providing long-term ecological, economic, and social value and benefits to future generations. To this end, all actions by local, state and federal agencies that are likely to affect the ocean resources and uses of Oregon’s territorial sea are to be developed and conducted to conserve marine resources and ecological functions. Higher priority is given to the protection of renewable marine resources (living marine organisms) than to the development of non-renewable ocean resources. This ocean planning framework was further codified by the Oregon Ocean Resource Management Act (ORS 196.405 to 196.485) passed in 1991 which created the Oregon ocean governance structure. The Oregon Territorial Sea Plan (TSP) which contains specific polices for state ocean management was originally adopted in 1994. The TSP was modified in 2009 to address policies for managing marine renewable energy development. A process is underway to use spatial planning techniques to identify areas appropriate for marine renewable energy development; adoption of these amendments to the TSP is anticipated in January 2013. Goal 19 also establishes the policy framework for the Ocean Stewardship Area which is defined to include the state’s territorial sea (out to three nautical miles), the continental margin seaward to the toe of the continental slope, and adjacent ocean areas. The Ocean Stewardship area is further addressed in the TSP. Goal 19, the Oregon Ocean Resources Management Act, and the TSP all state that prior to taking an action that is likely to affect ocean resources or uses of Oregon’s territorial sea, state and federal agencies are required to assess the reasonably foreseeable adverse effects of the action. The effects assessment is also to address reasonably foreseeable adverse effects on Oregon’s estuaries and shorelands. The information and protection requirements outlined below apply both on a planning scale (i.e., Territorial sea Plan) and on a permit-by-permit basis (i.e., OPT permit). Information is needed for the territorial sea, the ocean stewardship area and the outer continental shelf. Oregon’s Ocean Resources Goal 19, the Oregon Resources Management Act, and the TSP all require the protection of certain resources: a. Renewable marine resources; b. Biological diversity of marine life and the functional integrity of the marine ecosystem; c. Important marine habitat including areas: 1. Important to the biological viability of commercially or recreationally caught species or that support important food or prey species for commercially or recreationally caught species; or 2. needed to assure the survival of threatened or endangered species; 3. ecologically significant to maintain ecosystem structure, biological productivity, and biological diversity; 4. essential to the life-history or behavior of marine organisms; or 5. especially vulnerable because of size, composition, or location in relation to chemical or other pollutants, noise, physical disturbance, alteration, or harvest; or 6. unique or of limited range within the state: and d. Areas important to fisheries, which are: 1. areas of high catch; or 2. areas where highly valued fish are caught even if in low abundance or by few fishers; or 3. areas that are important on a seasonal basis; or 4. areas important to commercial or recreational fishing activities, including those of individual ports or particular fleets; or 5. habitat areas that support food or prey species important to commercially and recreationally caught fish and shellfish species. 6. Agencies are also to protect and encourage beneficial uses of ocean resources such as navigation, food production, recreation, aesthetic enjoyment, and uses of the seafloor provided that the activities do not adversely affect the resources protected in 1-4 above. To support the TSP spatial planning process and meet Goal 19 planning information requirements, the State of Oregon has developed a spatial decision support tool called MarineMap. It displays Oregon’s Ocean GIS database online and currently encompasses over 200 data layers including: a. Commercial and recreational fisheries data collected through local advisory committees for areas important to fisheries (Winter 2011); b. Ecological data collected by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (Summer 2011); c. Seafloor bathymetric and image data (Summer 2011); d. Recreational ocean use determined by on-line surveys (Fall 2010); e. Visual assessment inventory information (Summer 2012); f. Other spatial data on human uses, managed resources, physical conditions, and shoreland facilities (Fall 2010). This information has been used as part of the geospatial analysis to develop areas to be protected by Goal 19 in the current TSP mapping process. Currently, the draft recommendation is for six areas or zones: a. Renewable Energy Exclusion Area (REEA); b. Proprietary Use and Management Area (PUMA); c. Resources and Uses Conservation Area (RUCA); d. Resources and Uses Management Area (RUMA); e. Renewable Energy Facility Suitability Study Area (REFSSA); f. Renewable Energy Permit Area (REPA). Standards are the most stringent in the conservation area and least stringent in the study area. In addition, the draft recommendations include two overlay zones and screening standards that would apply across the territorial sea: 1. Visual Resource Area Overlay; 2. Marine Recreation Area Overlay. Information will be needed for permit applications in each of these zones but will be more extensive in conservation areas to ensure that important resources are protected. Permits for marine renewable energy projects in the future will be subject to different screening standards depending on what zone or area they are proposed in. While Oregon has created an innovative marine spatial planning decision support tool, the state continues to need additional information to ground truth assumptions, fill in information gaps, reduce uncertainties, and provide expert opinions. In addition, the state is working with other West Coast states to create a regional data framework that will facilitate regional decision-making and planning efforts.
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  • Snow, P. 2012. Managing Marine Resources in Oregon’s Territorial Sea and Ocean Stewardship Area: The importance of environmental information in planning and decision making. In: Boehlert, G., C. Braby, A. S. Bull, M. E. Helix, S. Henkel, P. Klarin, and D. Schroeder, eds. 2013. Oregon Marine Renewable Energy Environmental Science Conference Proceedings. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Cooperative Agreement with Oregon State University M12AC00012. OCS Report BOEM 2013-0113. 149 pp.
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  • U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
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