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National Ocean Council to Protect U.S. Water Resources

sunset on Pacific Ocean

There are few bright spots in the BP oil disaster, but if nothing else, the Gulf spill has reminded us of the value of our ocean resources. Perhaps that’s why the Obama administration chose this week to announce the creation of a National Ocean Council–a group in charge of developing policy goals and balancing both commercial and recreational aquatic needs. The Council, which will consist of 24 officials from an assortment of federal agencies, is the fruit of a year-long study from Obama’s ocean policy task force.

Despite its broad reach, the Council won’t be able to generate new laws and regulations. And, to the dismay of many an ocean activist, it will not have the ability to bar offshore oil exploration. The Obama administration lays out what the Council will do in a press release:

  • Establishes
    a new regional approach to how we use and protect the ocean, our
    coasts, and the Great Lakes to decrease user conflicts, improve
    planning and regulatory efficiencies and decrease costs and delays, and
    preserve critical ecosystem services.
  • Creates a comprehensive alternative to sector-by-sector and statute-by-statute decision-making.
  • Establishes
    regional planning bodies, bringing Federal, state, and tribal partners
    together in an unprecedented manner to jointly plan for the future of
    the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.
  • Ensures science-based information is at the heart of decision-making.

Not a bad start considering that these responsibilities were previously delegated to a number of scattered agencies. This is, in fact, the first time the U.S. has had any sort of comprehensive federal body in charge of ocean policy. And with the growing likelihood that water will be the next resource battleground, we need a National Ocean Council more than ever.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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