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Pay attention to marine zoning

Published on November 10, 2017 3:31PM

Marine spatial planning in Washington state is supposed to prioritize traditional local uses of the ocean, including commercial fishing.

U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Marine spatial planning in Washington state is supposed to prioritize traditional local uses of the ocean, including commercial fishing.


Washington state agencies have ideas for how to accommodate future requests for a host of new projects along the Pacific coast — tidal, wave and solar energy, dredging disposal, mining, marine product harvesting, military uses and offshore aquaculture operations. It’s important that local people learn about this Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning and speak up about it this Wednesday at 6 p.m. at a meeting hosted by the Department of Ecology at the Cranberry Museum, 2907 Pioneer Road.

In essence, CMSP is a kind of zoning for the ocean and undersea areas. In the past several decades, Washington’s outer coast has experienced enormous changes in how this area is used. Marine sanctuaries and large expanses reserved for tribes have steadily squeezed more and more activities and users into a smaller area concentrated off Pacific County.

The county and its residents deserve extremely close consultation in the formulation of any plans for how to jam more uses into our traditional waters.

One of our area’s most highly respected experts on fisheries and regulatory issues is far from satisfying with what he sees so far in CMSP. Dale Beasley, president of the Coalition of Coastal Fisheries and of the Columbia River Crab Fisherman’s Association, said Sunday that the plan fails to comply with legislative mandates and court rulings, while also giving short shrift to thoughtful planning already conducted at the local level:

• “This draft plan has ignored the utility of the Pacific County Shoreline Master Program (SMP) and all the good work done by local residents to protect our seafood-dependent community from being displaced by new uses in the ocean. The Coastal Zone agreement between the state and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration governs how adverse impacts to our community will be addressed. State and NOAA officials are omitting the local SMP from the agreement, effectively making local law useless in protecting community interests in the area from three to 200 miles offshore.”

• “If one searches really hard in the draft CMSP, you can find what the Legislature intended the plan to do, but you really need to search and … ocean energy is not the intent of the legislation. The legislative intent for Washington Coastal Marine Spatial Planning was different than any other state in the nation. The Washington Legislature intended to ‘protect and preserve existing sustainable uses’ including fishing as its major outcome. It did not preclude new uses, but new uses are supposed to avoid conflict with existing uses.”

• “Last January, a unanimous Washington Supreme Court decision involving the Washington Ocean Resource Management Act instructed the Department of Ecology to ascertain the intend of the Legislature and carry it out. In the case of the Washington CMSP, the agency’s primary actions do not carry out the requirement to protect and preserve existing uses in coastal communities that rely on marine waters.”

As an example, Beasley cites maps in the plan that indicate all marine uses having equal importance: “A couple of sailboats crossing the marine waters was a use; so was crab fishing that drives our coastal economy and provides tonnage over the local channels into Ilwaco and Chinook to keep the channels dredged so that the sailboats have a place to moor.” This refers to federal regulations that tie port dredging to the quantity of industrial goods brought into a port; recreational uses such as sailing count for little in political battles to keep small ports open.

The Department of Ecology asserts its plan does watch out for “recreation, maritime shipping, aquaculture and coastal fishing. The plan is designed to help ensure future projects do not cause long-term significant adverse effects to the environment, fisheries, and other resources.”

Most coastal people put far more trust in Beasley than in an Olympia agency. If you care about preserving the industries important to us now, attend the meeting.

More information:

• tinyurl.com/Draft-WA-Spatial-Plan

• tinyurl.com/Spatial-Plan-Draft-EIS



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