Resource Development Council

Ocean zoning, marine spatial

planning looms big over Alaska

President Obama has signed an executive order creating a new federal bureaucracy tasked with setting ocean policy and requiring marine spatial planning – ocean zoning – in all U.S. waters.

Executive Order 13547 creates regional planning bodies to develop marine spatial plans for all coastal waters. Ocean zoning is of great concern to resource development industries, including oil and gas, fishing, and mining.

The policy could have significant adverse impacts on commercial use and development in the oceans and coastal zone. It could also impact projects inland, especially if they are located in watersheds or along rivers which drain into an ocean. The policy calls for the creation of a new National Ocean Council that will coordinate the work of the many federal agencies involved in conservation and marine planning. Among the tenets of the policy is a zoning process that confines certain recreational and commercial activities to designated areas. The zoning would be overseen by new regional organizations, with final approval coming from the National Ocean Council.

Alaskans are concerned the marine spatial plans may include state waters and potentially even upland areas, raising significant jurisdictional issues.

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