New federal ocean policy bodes ill for Alaska

Alaskans today have tremendous potential opportunities that can provide lasting benefits for decades to come. Plentiful energy and mineral resources, new Arctic shipping lanes, vibrant fisheries, and a bustling tourism industry are but a few of the areas that could all combine to usher in a new era of unprecedented economic and societal prosperity for the people of Alaska and beyond.

Unfortunately, prospects for this bright future could potentially be delayed if not derailed as a result of President Obama’s issuance of the July 2010 National Ocean Policy Executive Order and the recently-released National Ocean Policy Final Implementation Plan.

Most troubling is the requirement that federal entities implement a national ocean zoning plan known as “Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning to “better manage” a host of commercial and recreational activities and reduce what are said to be conflicts among incompatible human activities. The Interior Department has noted that the Coastal and Marine Spatial Plans “will serve as an overlay for decisions made under existing regulatory mandates” and “assist the [Bureau of Ocean Energy Management]…in making informed decisions.”

New government-staffed “regional planning bodies” overseen by a 54-member White House-led National Ocean Council, are to develop “marine plans” by 2017 that may determine who gets to do what where on the water and even on land. Even though Alaska has chosen not to participate, the federal government has already proceeded ahead with plans to create a regional planning body for the region, having last year identified seven officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior alone to participate in CMSP activity in Alaska.

Policy supporters and the final implementation plan itself assert that the initiative does not introduce any new regulations. Yet, in addition to the zoning plan, the recommendations that were adopted in the Executive Order plainly state that effective implementation will “require clear and easily understood requirements and regulations, where appropriate, that include enforcement as a critical component.”

Anchorage Daily News

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