BOSTON (CN) – Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed the first-ever state law governing ocean management. The Massachusetts Ocean Act will regulate waters within three miles of the state’s coast, or about 1.6 million acres of water.
Ocean advocates say the bill, which has been three years in the making, resulted from the collaborative efforts of politicians, scientists, fishermen, environmentalists and the marine industry. The new law aims to develop an ocean management plan by 2009 that will guide development in state waters, much like zoning on land. The plan will be crafted under the scientific guidance of an ocean management coalition of stakeholders from state and federal governments, environmental groups, fishing interests and marine industries.
The law sets rules for offshore development and other projects that lie in state water. A Mass Ocean Action map of selected projects off the coast of Massachusetts includes liquid natural gas terminals, proposed pipelines, desalination plants, tidal energy and wind farms, along with sand mining, nuclear and waste disposal sites.
The law establishes trusts directing use of mitigation funding, among other things, and puts the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in charge of implementing the final management plan.
The state initiative was forwarded by the Mass Ocean Campaign, a coalition of environmental and civic groups led by the Conservation Law Foundation, the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Ocean Conservancy. The campaign cited a poll indicating that nearly eight in 10 Massachusetts voters favored the management law, which was written in response to conservation and policy gaps observed by the Massachusetts Ocean Management Task Force, the U.S. Commission for Ocean Policy and Pew Oceans Commission.