Santa Cruz Sentinel
Planning. You can’t build a community without it. Zoning laws, codes, permit processes – they turn chaos into order.
So why should the ocean be any different? Shouldn’t we apply the same principles to our coastal waters?
With the stroke of a pen, President Barack Obama on Monday set into motion such a planning process by creating a National Ocean Policy and an accompanying National Ocean Council, a body of scientists and administration officials charged with overseeing activities such as drilling, fishing and shipping along the nation’s ocean shores.
Rep. Sam Farr, a longtime champion of such an ocean-resource policy, hailed Obama’s executive order, comparing it to the nation’s Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
The executive order, Farr said, “in effect creates a Clean Ocean Act.”
At the heart of the new policy, which drew praise from local environmentalists, is the creation of “marine spatial plans.” Just as cities develop zoning to guide land use, marine zones will be developed to guide the best use of coastal waters. That planning will be done by nine regional bodies.
The promise of greater coordination in the planning and development of policies governing use of our ocean waters is certainly a lofty and worthy goal, and one that we hope is truly embraced and carried out.
It is just a bit ironic that the story appeared in the Sentinel just above a Washington Post story that noted the anti-terror bureaucracy created in the wake of 9-11 is so unwieldy that no one has a handle on what programs exist, what information is shared or how many agencies do the same work.
While the scope of the National Ocean Policy pales in comparison to combatting international terrorism, there is always a hint of cynicism when government creates new regulatory bodies to govern the agencies already in place. Fishing groups and oil interests have already expressed concerns about policy coming from a top-down bureaucracy.
Along the Central Coast, we take great pride in our coastal waters and protecting them for future generations. We think the National Ocean Council has great potential to enhance the Monterey Bay and ocean resources across the nation.
But as people are wont to say, the devil is in the details. As the administration’s National Ocean Policy develops it will be incumbent on those who laud and applaud this new direction to ensure the council fulfills its mission and does not become another burdensome layer of bureaucracy.