A revised National Oceans Policy implementation plan released today incorporates key recommendations made by U.S. Senator Mark Begich.
Begich criticized the initial plan, requesting a simpler approach and objecting to the original call for multiple planning agencies that would expand an already bureaucratic system and make it difficult for states to navigate. The redrafted plan was released today by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
"We asked the Obama administration to go back to the drawing board to revise and simplify their top-down approach," said Sen. Begich. "Their original Oceans Policy was really just ocean zoning with no meaningful role for the affected states and regional fish councils and did not include opt-out provisions. I appreciate the administration's willingness to listen to my concerns and urge Alaskans to look closely at this revised plan to see if it works for them. If not, they now have options."
The National Oceans Policy was designed by the National Ocean Council, a group of 27 agencies and groups, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Coast Guard. The plan is intended to improve the nation's approach to our oceans policy and advance ocean health by better managing information, streamlining decision-making, improving coordination between states and communities and spurring economic growth.
"Alaskans depend on our oceans to support local economies, create jobs, and to put food on our tables," said Sen. Begich. "With the increasing demands from shippers and other users, the oceans need increased attention and research. But any plan must include a meaningful role for the states, the regional fish councils, and others. I urge the Parnell administration to look closely at this revised plan and take the next step to ensure Alaskans' interests are protected."
Among changes critical for Alaska incorporated in today's revised implementation plan include:
* Addition of "Economic Growth' as a policy priority and more focused priority objectives;
* Shorter, simpler text -- down from 100-plus pages to 30;
* Elimination of regulatory milestones; plan emphasized as NOT regulatory;
* Makes explicit that participation in planning is entirely voluntary. If Alaska (or any state) wishes to opt out, it can. No regional planning body would be formed if a state in the region doesn't want it.