West Coast Ocean Plan Truly a Watershed Partnership

The White House Council on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of the Interior, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington to launch an historic action plan addressing challenging ocean and coastal management issues along the West Coast, according to a July 29 press release.

The action plan implements the West Coast Governors' Agreement on Ocean Health, a 2006 agreement signed by the governors of the three states involved to forge a long-term partnership to tackle obstacles facing the Pacific Ocean and its coastal communities.

"Close collaboration on a regional basis between the states and the federal government is a critical piece of the President's Ocean Action Plan," said James L. Connaughton, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. "The new Action Plan for the West Coast is a testament to what we can accomplish when we align our efforts and work together for a better future for our oceans and coasts."

"The federal partners are pleased to support this commitment of the West Coast governors to ocean health and conservation," said Kameran Onley, acting assistant secretary for Water and Science at the U.S. Department of the Interior. "The Department of the Interior provides ocean research and resource management experience to help the states achieve our mutual goal of providing a healthy ocean for future generations. Interior agencies including the U.S. Geological Survey, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Minerals Management Service share a long and close working partnership with all three states."

The plan commits the three states to collaborate closely with federal agencies, as well as ocean users, academic institutions, the public, and other regional entities on 26 bold actions to meet seven priority goal areas related to ocean protection. The federal partners are providing the states with scientific expertise and other support from their programs.

"This action plan is a significant step in addressing the declining health of our coastal and ocean ecosystems along the West Coast," said Jim Balsiger, acting assistant administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "Perhaps more importantly, the plan will forge new partnerships among diverse organizations with the common goal of assuring the health and well-being of our coasts for future generations."

Examples of the actions that will accomplish the seven priority goals are:

• To meet the goal of clean coastal waters and beaches, specific steps to combat polluted runoff and reduce marine garbage are planned and the governors call for stricter ocean-going vessel emission standards.

• To promote healthy ocean and coastal habitats, the plan calls for the states to work with federal agencies and others to restore estuarine habitats, including coastal wetlands, by at least 10 percent over the next 10 years. This effort will be aided by collaborative development of geographic information systems for the entire West Coast by 2012.

• To provide ecosystem-based management of ocean and coastal resources, the action plan calls for establishing a West Coast information-sharing network during 2008 to increase regional coordination of ecosystem management.

•. In considering impacts of offshore development, the plan will explore the feasibility of alternative offshore ocean energy development and evaluate potential environmental effects of projects.

•. In the area of ocean awareness and literacy, the action plan calls for creating or expanding K-12 ocean curricula as well as oceans programs for the public and decision makers at all levels.

• To boost ocean and coastal scientific information, research and monitoring, the action plan provides for long-term maintenance and updating of ocean research programs and monitoring infrastructure as well as a complete seabed map of all state tidelands and submerged lands out to three miles by 2020.

• To promote sustainable economic development throughout diverse coastal communities, the plan supports actions such as local planning for working waterfronts to promote sustainable fisheries and help coast-dependent businesses and expansion of environmentally responsible "green ports" and "clean marinas."

The activities in the final action plan will be initiated within 18 months, and some will be completed during that time. The governors have formally committed to report on the status of actions at the end of two years.

To download a copy of the final Action Plan, visit http://westcoastoceans.gov.

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