LONG BEACH — In the future, Washington could receive requests for a host of new projects along the Pacific coast that include renewable energy, dredging disposal, mining, marine product harvesting, military uses, and offshore aquaculture operations.
At a public meeting in Long Beach next week, representatives with the Department of Ecology will explain how the agency has been leading a state effort to plan and prepare for these potential new coastal uses, which have sparked considerable interest by existing users of shorelines and near-shore waters.
“Working together with the state departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources, the state has created new science-based guidance for making decisions about the most appropriate locations for different types of projects and uses,” according to a press release from DOE.
The state’s proposed marine spatial plan — basically a kind of zoning — would establish a process for coordinating among local and tribal governments, as well as with state and federal agencies to ensure interest groups and the public have opportunities to weigh on future projects.
The draft plan is now out for public review and comment. DOE said it has worked closely with local and tribal governments, other state agencies, the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council, environmental and planning groups, the private sector and the public to develop the plan.
“Currently, most coastal activities primarily center on 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,” the agency said. “Between 2012 and 2015, the state funded 19 projects to gather information about human uses, marine life and habitats, oceanography, and the ecological, economic and social components of different uses in the state’s ocean waters.”
The proposed plan provides data on current ocean conditions and future trends. The guidance outlines the data and information needed to evaluate new proposed ocean projects, including the potential effects a project could have on people, local communities and the environment.
While the plan establishes protections for fisheries and ecologically-sensitive areas in state waters, it does not change current management or permit processes for existing marine activities such as fisheries management plans or shellfish aquaculture.
Ecology is hosting four public meetings in November and take comments on the draft plan. The Long Beach meeting is Nov. 8, 6 p.m., at the Cranberry Museum, 2907 Pioneer Road.
The department also is seeking feedback on a related draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that evaluates anticipated impacts that may arise from adopting the marine spatial plan. The draft EIS does not assess the impacts of particular types of ocean use projects, which would be done when a specific project is proposed.
Public comments for the draft marine spatial plan and related EIS are due to Ecology by Tuesday, Dec. 12. They can be submitted online or by mail to: Jennifer Hennessey, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600.