Q & A: Will the plan create new regulations?

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Will the plan create new regulations?


No, the plan will not create new regulations. The Marine Spatial Plan addresses the need for coordinated decision-making across entities by providing common information, analyses, and recommendations for potential uses that support decisions. It will also provide mechanisms for coordinating review of proposals and implementing the plan across agencies. The plan does not supersede existing laws and must be implemented through existing state and local authorities.

According to the state law: “No authority is created under this chapter to affect in any way any project, use, or activity in the state’s marine waters existing prior to or during the development and review of the marine management plan. No authority is created under this chapter to supersede the current authority of any state agency or local government.” (RCW 43.372.060)

For more details, see the SEPA document.


Q & A: Why was the study area chosen?

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Why was the study area chosen?


The selection of the study area for the Marine Spatial Plan was guided by the criteria recommended by NOAA for establishing coastal effects from federal activities to Washington’s coastal resources or uses. In particular, the study area:

  • Is based on where potential new federal activities are technically feasible and that are reasonably expected in the next 15 years. For example, while technology requirements vary by type, all renewable energy technologies appear to be limited to within 20 to 25 miles of shore in the near future. The study area is well beyond this distance from shore.
  • Is an area where effects are reasonably foreseeable on Washington’s coastal uses or coastal resources. This geography covers the area where potential impacts are most likely from potential new uses or activities. It is also the area with the highest intensity of existing coastal uses and many ecological resources with connections to Washington’s coastal zone.
  • Is ecologically meaningful and ecologically connected to Washington’s coastal zone. The study area encompasses ecological functions, processes and important resource areas such as upwelling, currents, and important feeding and migration areas and habitats. The ecological processes and functions in these areas have important connections to nearshore ecological processes, but are more distinct from farther offshore pelagic and abyssal areas of the ocean.
  • Maximizes use of existing data and information available. The amount of information available is much greater shoreward of 700 fathoms, including recent management plans and Environmental Impact Studies. Significantly less information is available beyond 700 fathoms.

For background information on the study area selection, see the SEPA scoping document.


Q & A: What new or expanded uses are being researched for the plan?

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What new or expanded uses are being researched for the plan?


The marine spatial plan will address the following five potential uses in Washington’s marine waters:

  • Marine renewable energy such as offshore wind, wave, or tidal.
  • Dredge disposal in new locations.
  • Aquaculture in new locations including offshore.
  • Mining or mineral extraction.
  • Marine product extraction for cosmetic or pharmaceutical uses (sometimes also called bioextraction).

It is the aim of the plan to ensure that future developments related to these marine activities and uses are appropriately sited such that existing activities and new development can successfully coexist, while maintaining a productive, healthy marine ecosystem. The plan will seek to evaluate and identify areas that these new uses should avoid, areas that are potentially suitable for new uses, and preferred areas for these potential new uses. The core of the plan will be to understand, avoid and minimize impacts to important areas for existing, sustainable uses and to sensitive environmental areas.

For more details, please see the list of MSP goals, with their associated objectives and actions and the SEPA document.


Q & A: What current uses will be included in the plan?

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What current uses will be included in the plan?


A wide range of important coastal and ocean uses currently occur on Washington’s coast such as fishing, shipping, recreation, shellfish aquaculture, and military training. Understanding these current uses is critical to plan for the future.

As part of the marine spatial planning process, several projects are contributing better data and information about these current uses. The list below highlights a few examples of these projects:

The marine spatial plan will include chapters that provide information and maps of current uses on Washington’s coast.

For more information on current and past projects for Marine Spatial Planning, read the various Scopes of Work on the MSP Projects page or view the data through the MSP mapping application.


Q & A: What is the study area for the plan?

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What is the study area for the plan?


The study area for Washington’s Marine Spatial Plan is approximately 7,700 square miles and includes:

  • Washington’s marine waters along the Pacific Ocean from Cape Flattery south to Cape Disappointment and from ordinary high water out to offshore areas.
  • The estuaries along the coast such as Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.
  • A distance offshore that follows the continental shelf/slope contours at a water depth of 700 fathoms.

Planning Area

For background information on the study area selection, see the SEPA scoping document.


Q & A: What are the goals of the plan?

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What are the goals of the plan?


The goals will help guide the overall planning process but do not alter the requirements in the law (RCW 43.372). The planning process will work to achieve all these goals in the final plan.

    Overarching goal: To ensure a resilient and healthy marine ecosystem on Washington’s coast that supports sustainable economic, recreational, and cultural opportunities for coastal communities, visitors and future generations.

    Goal 1: Protect and preserve existing sustainable uses to ensure economic vibrancy and resource access for coastal communities.

    Goal 2: Maintain maritime coastal communities from now into perpetuity.

    Goal 3: Ensure that our marine ecosystem is preserved for future generations.

    Goal 4: Develop an integrated decision making process which supports proactive, adaptive and efficient spatial planning.

    Goal 5: Encourage economic development that recognizes the aspirations of local communities and protects coastal resources.

For more details, see the list of MSP goals, with their associated objectives and actions and the SEPA document.


Giving Thanks for Seastars

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For the past year, anyone that notices changes in the marine waters has likely noticed dramatic changes to the sea stars along the west coast. Scientists and researchers have documented a rapid decline in important populations of sea stars. These populations have slowly succumbed to white lesions and eventually appear to melt to death.

Cases of the sea star wasting disease have popped up historically, but this event is unprecedented in its severity and geographic extent. Recently, scientists isolated and identified a virus commonly found in invertebrates called Star Associated Densovirus as the cause for the epidemic. There is still much to learn about the virus and what can be done to help alleviate the problem.

Let us give thanks for the scientists that identified the virus and hope that we can make a difference to the populations before it is too late.

What can you do?
Help researchers from Cornell University to track the epidemic on your beaches. Fill out this form when you find a sea star wasting away. Or this one.

Lessons Learned

Posted by & filed under News, Reports, Washington Sea Grant.

Are you curious about what other states have learned from their marine spatial plan?
Have you ever wondered about gaps and opportunities in the planning processes?

Well, you’re in luck!

Jennifer McCann from Rhode Island Sea Grant led an initiative supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Coastal Resources Center to transfer knowledge between marine planners. An assessment which identifies opportunities to strengthen the MSP global network and recognizes coordination opportunities that can increase efficiency and opportunities was just released.

The assessment focuses on identifying:

  • information, tools, and techniques that practitioners need;
  • effective mechanisms for delivering those materials;
  • organizations which could assist in building capacity;
  • constituencies who need the materials for implementation.
  • Washington state is highlighted as a strong example of effectively applying the MSP approach in the U.S. state waters.

    Read the report
    Learn about Rhode Island’s planning process


The Season to Volunteer

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Do you enjoy walking on the beach? Are you interested in learning more about the marine natural resources in your area?

Most of us appreciate long walks on the beach and seeing the sun peak through the clouds on a rainy day. November is the perfect time to show your volunteer spirit and head to a beach near you. There are many opportunities to learn more about marine natural resources in your area while playing an active role in marine conservation.

COASST is offering trainings for new volunteers soon- don’t miss it! COASST is a citizen science project that provides long-term monitoring data on marine ecosystem health throughout Washington State. At the training, learn how to identify beached birds and conduct a survey, and sign up to monitor the beach of your choice each month. If you’re already a COASST volunteer, sign up for a marine debris training session and learn how to conduct a survey and monitor for marine debris two times each month until March 2015.

And finally, COASST is monitoring sea star wasting disease along the West Coast.
While volunteering, keep your eyes open for sea stars, both healthy and sick.

Become part of the COASST network today!

Get involved
Find a Beach
Learn about Sea Stars


What Do You Do at the Beach?

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In May, the Surfrider Foundation launched a survey to document the recreational use of Washington’s coast to assist with future planning of Washington’s coast. So far, over 280 surveys have been voluntarily completed.

The survey closes on October 31, 2014 so be sure to fill it out yourself and encourage anyone who recreates on the Washington coast to take the survey to help provide the most accurate data possible for the state of Washington.

Take the survey
Questions? Contact Casey Dennehy at cdennehy@surfrider.org
Need help? Watch the tutorial