Officials from the Massachusetts department of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) will hold a public hearing on Wednesday to hear public comment on the newly released, 206-page 2014 Massachusetts ocean management plan (OMP). The 2014 plan is the first update to the original 2009 OMP, mandated by the Massachusetts Oceans Act and signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in 2008. The OMP was created to protect critical marine wildlife habitat and to set standards for ocean-based development. It must be revised every five years.
The stated goals of the 2014 OMP are to update crucial scientific data obtained since the 2009 OMP, to adjust zoning of critical habitat areas, to advance the planning and siting of potential renewable energy areas, to develop parameters for ocean mitigation fee projects, and to identify potential areas for offshore sand mining that can provide beach nourishment for eroding shorelines.
The 2014 OMP has the input of more than 100 scientists and experts, as well as feedback from numerous public meetings, according to the EEA website.
The October 22 hearing, scheduled from 5 to 7 pm at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven, is one of five regional public hearings the EEA and CZM will hold in Massachusetts coastal regions during the 60-day public comment period, which ends at 5 pm, November 25.
CZM director Bruce Carlisle will be on hand to give an overview of 2014 plan, and to hear questions and comments from Islanders.
The 2014 OMP draft states, “there has been significant progress in the planning, analysis, and leasing stages of offshore wind development in federal waters adjacent to Massachusetts.” In June of this year, the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts jointly announced the sale for commercial leases for wind power on the outer continental shelf off the Massachusetts coast. The sale is expected to be final by the end of this year. “With the progress of in [sic] planning, analysis, and anticipated leasing of offshore wind energy areas for potential development in federal waters, an important part of the 2014 draft ocean plan is work to advance the proactive planning and siting of transmission corridors to bring renewable energy from the projects in federal waters across state waters to landside grid tie-in locations,” the report said.
The 2014 OMP has no bearing on Cape Wind, the wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound. “As far as we’re concerned, Cape Wind is leased, licensed, permitted and moving forward,” Mr. Carlisle told The Times. “The 2014 plan doesn’t alter it, it supports it. Now is the time to do some proactive planning around transmission. Let’s put some foresight and forethought into it and do the best job we can.”
Of the four tidal energy projects proposed in the 2009 OMP, only one, the Muskeget Channel project, which is in partnership with the town of Edgartown, has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Massachusetts is one of the few states on the east coast that prohibits offshore sand mining for beach nourishment. The 2009 OMP recognized that the mining offshore sand could help mitigate beach erosion, but did not designate specific areas that could be mined. The 2014 OMP has designated “primary resource areas” in Massachusetts waters, and in federal waters, for potential pilot projects. One of the largest primary resource areas is between the north shore of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands.
Mr. Carlisle said that dredge spoils are strongly preferred for beach nourishment by the CZM, but only if the sand is compatible with the beach. While some communities on the Cape have had sand trucked in, the cost on the Island would be prohibitive.
“We’re going to take a very careful approach to pilot projects,” Mr. Carlisle said. “It starts with trying to find areas in waters that have good resources that have least impact with fishing and other marine uses. We’ve gone through a very thorough and deliberate approach to determine the best possible areas. In the plan we identify nine areas: the North shore, Metro Boston, South shore, Cape Cod Bay, Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound, and Buzzards Bay. We’re going to confirm the geological work. We also need to work with fisheries. The areas we’re starting to identify should not impact fishing.”
Mr. Carlisle said offshore mining can be done with minimal environmental impact. “When sand is mined offshore, it’s not creating a huge pit,” he said. “The latest technology is used to taper the seafloor and to keep the contour intact. This technology is routinely employed by the mid-Atlantic states.”
In the conversation with The Times, Mr. Carlisle frequently stressed that the CZM wants to work in partnership with coastal towns, and that no action would be taken without strong public support. “We want people to give us solid feedback, both positive and negative,” he said.
For information on the review and update process, along with links to the 2014 final Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, ocean management plan data, and 2009 draft ocean plan and related documents, see the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan home page, or contact CZM at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-626-1200.