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'Healthy Oceans Matter' To This Administration Says NOAA Head

Leading federal officials from D.C. met in San Francisco Thursday and presented plans for what lies farther west.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head, Jane Lubchenco emphasized the importance of putting a new ocean council in the White House.

Jane Lubchenco: “Today the federal government says loudly and clearly ‘healthy oceans matter.’ Our individual and national prosperity, health, security, and well-being depend on it.”

Rob Manning reports.

The bottom line is that the government hasn’t been doing the best job managing the ocean – according to Susan Allen with the advocacy group, Our Ocean. 

Susan Allen: “There isn’t the best coordination between state and federal entities, and within federal agencies.”

Federal advisors now want to create a National Ocean Council. It would include cabinet-level leaders: people like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Washington governor, now Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke.

Astrid Scholz is an ocean policy expert with Portland-based, Ecotrust.

Astrid Scholz: “It would seem to suggest, if you’re going to be creating a council with this caliber, and this make-up, you’re going to make some very large changes in the way ocean policy is handled in this country.”

In fact, the advisors are going to tackle a potentially explosive issue: “ocean spatial planning.” It’s basically ocean zoning, where certain parts of the ocean are reserved for certain uses, say fishing, or wave energy, or for a marine reserve.

As Dr. Lubchenco spoke from San Francisco, her staffers in charge of federal marine sanctuaries met in Portland.

Lincoln County commissioner Terry Thompson offered them his idea for managing Oregon’s ocean programs.

Terry Thompson: “I’m pushing the governor’s office to start to talk about a Department of Oceans, because as long as we keep them split up in all of our different agencies – the first time we have budget cuts, they take the smallest things, and they throw them out.”

Advocates told their federal guests that the state’s ocean policies are working, and more federal oversight isn’t necessary.

As if in response, the federal officials in San Francisco said that the new high-level interest in oceans won’t replace local control.