The Atlantic Ocean’s vastness is shared by many … especially along the heavily populated stretch of coast between New York and Virginia.
The ocean is used by container ships, cruise liners, commercial fishing boats and all types of recreational craft. The ocean floor’s sand is mined for beach replenishments, and crossed by miles of communications and electrical cables. Proposals for offshore energy generation, such as wind turbines and oil and gas drilling, are innumerable.
So how can all of these uses and interests be accommodated … while protecting the integrity of the ocean and its marine life?
That’s the focus of a historic effort by several government agencies to develop a comprehensive plan for the ocean. Just as New Jersey has regional plans for land use, the new Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan is designed to regulate and guide ocean uses in the region from New York to Virginia.
“Ocean planning is really about anticipating what might happen in the future and making sure we set up the rules of the game to protect the things that need to be protected, and allow uses to happen in the places that are most appropriate,” explained Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a Sandy Hook-based nonprofit that advocates for a clean and healthy ocean.
For example, he said, the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan could protect New Jersey’s most valuable fishing grounds and ecosystems by directing offshore wind power installations to less sensitive locations.
And New Jerseyans can have a voice in addressing these questions. New Jersey is a coastal state with an enormous part of our economic prosperity linked to what happens to the Atlantic Ocean. New Jersey’s ocean lovers should comment and participate in this planning effort, speaking out in favor of science-based planning that gives strong protections to marine species and their habitats. The deadline for commenting on the draft Mid-Atlantic plan is Sept. 6.
“The shore is so integral to everyone’s interests in New Jersey,” noted Dillingham. “Everyone loves the shore. It’s such an important part of our economy.”
The American Littoral Society and the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) will hold a “Healthy Ocean Workshop” and question-and–answer period about the plan on Wednesday, Aug. 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Beach Haus Brewery, 801 Main Street, Belmar.
Dillingham said a similar event on Long Beach Island in June drew a large crowd with many questions about potential environmental threats such as oil and gas drilling, seismic tests, offshore windmills and sand mining.
“People had very relevant things on their minds,” Dillingham said. “Protect wildlife, keep the water clean and don’t do anything to negatively impact the shore economy.”
To learn more about the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan or download a draft or executive summary, go to www.boem.gov/Ocean-Action-Plan.
To view the American Littoral Society’s video about the plan, “A Vision for Our Ocean,” go to https://youtu.be/YIMhllzXqfY.
Comments about the plan can be emailed to midatlanticRPB@boem.gov or sent by mail to Robert P. LaBelle, Federal Co-Lead, Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body, BOEM, 45600 Woodland Road, Mailstop: VAM-BOEM DIR., Sterling, VA 20166.
And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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