The Massachusetts Ocean Act, enacted in May 2008, requires the secretary of the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop a comprehensive ocean management plan. The plan will be submitted to NOAA for incorporation into the existing coastal zone management plan and enforced through the state’s regulatory and permitting processes, including the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and Chapter 91, the state’s waterways law.
The goal is to institute a comprehensive approach to ocean resource management that supports ecosystem health and economic vitality, balances current ocean uses, and considers future needs. This will be accomplished by determining where specific ocean uses will be permitted and which ocean uses are compatible.
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) is the lead for developing the ocean plan. The Massachusetts Ocean Partnership (MOP) is a broadly representative, independent public-private partnership created specifically to support the commonwealth’s ocean planning effort.
To develop the plan within the 18-month timeline, the following planning process was outlined:
To facilitate the planning process, an Ocean Advisory Commission and Science Advisory Council were created. Public input sessions were scheduled in coastal and inland communities. Six agency work groups were formed to acquire and analyze existing data and information regarding habitat; fisheries; transportation, navigation, and infrastructure; sediment; recreation and cultural services; and renewable energy.
Massachusetts uses MORIS (Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System) to search and display spatial data on-line pertaining to the Massachusetts coastal zone. MORIS is working with the NOAA Office for Coastal Management to incorporate additional cadastral data layers.
This plan will provide guidance for future data acquisition and research projects for the commonwealth.