Freedom of the seas

Is that a reality? The implication is that we can get on our boat and sail anywhere that our draft allows – unobstructed. Just stay clear of the debris gyre, lost containers and other floating hazards. Moreover, we can anchor wherever our fancy suggests, and for however long a time we’d like. While a far more complex issue, there are a few highlights worth noting.

One could argue that international laws about entry and exit aside, and associated costs, at a global level this isn’t too far from the truth. But now scale down to U.S. coastal waters where the vast majority of us sail, and it becomes a bit more problematic. Regulations relating to obstruction of navigation, safety and restricted areas imposed mostly for security reasons are minor nuisances. On another front, we are on the cusp of expanding off-shore development to include large array wind energy generation. New permitting along the east coast (e.g. MD & VA) promises such development in areas that are commonly transited by sailors. To what extent those developments will become hazards to navigation, or interfere with current wind flow patterns, remains unclear. Such wind energy development is well along in other parts of the world.

windBureau of Ocean Energy Management photo

A good review of the status and extent of off-shore wind development globally can be found at the BOEM web site http://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy-program/renewable-energy-guide/offshore-wind-energy.aspx .

Of more immediate concern for most of us is the growing interest in some States to control traditionally free water travel along their coasts and inlets. These are clearly ‘waters of the U.S.’ and subject to Federal jurisdiction – generally the Army Corps of Engineers. A case in point is the effort underway in parts of Florida to impose local ordinances that would effectively close many anchorages. These proposed ordinances fly in the face of established State law and policy, yet State agencies are caving to pressure from waterfront residents to follow a process leading to such outcomes. Already many communities have established mooring fields – usable for a fee – that restrict anchoring opportunities spatially and economically. Hopefully, saner heads and existing State laws will prevail, and the movement of boats up and down the east coast of the U.S. will continue unimpeded.

**Those who care about such things should complete the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FLA-ANCHOR . Hearings are imminent in Florida.

It must also be added that the ‘Corps’ continues to suffer from budget restrictions that prevent the effective control of shoaling along the AICW. The controlling depth of 8ft MLLW is specified in Federal statute, and is not maintained in many areas. With occasional depths below 5ft the passage of deeper draft boats is restricted. This impediment to travel on the AICW has become chronic and is progressive, making future use of the Waterway problematic.

Change is inevitable, and an essential part of life, but freedom to wander on the waterways of the world feels equally essential – at least to some of us who sail.

A New Game in Town . .

A New Game in Town Promises

More Effective Conservation

Earlier this week, a diverse group of dedicated conservationists from business, non-profit conservation and environmental groups and other natural resource professionals gathered at the Fleet Reserve Club on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The gathering was organized by the Conservation Leadership Council (CLC) whose mission is to –

“advance innovative approaches to America’s environmental challenges through policies rooted in fiscal responsibility, limited government, market entrepreneurship, community leadership, and public-private partnerships.”

Politically conservative-minded leaders have been at the forefront of innovative conservation since the early days of President Teddy Roosevelt. They have led and supported efforts in land and species conservation and restoration. They firmly support the objectives of the high profile efforts under the Endangered Species, Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. It is equally critical to understand that they firmly believe there are more effective ways, as we go forward, to accomplish those goals than the top-down, regulatory-heavy approach represented in those acts and supported by their politically liberal colleagues. While there are sharp and significant differences in policies and approaches to resource conservation, there is immense common ground for those willing to explore it.

Conservation need not be partisan. While progress has been achieved under current legislation and regulation, the most effective conservation actions nearly always grow from the bottom up with on-the-ground efforts in communities and local areas. This will be increasingly true as we move past the easier to the more difficult challenges and solutions, and public funding shrinks. Innovative ideas are tested, results are measured, partnerships are built, often against a background of contentious issues and conflicting beliefs and policies. Solutions grow out of the honest exchange of information, the development of mutual respect and trust among all the interested parties. Processes are transparent. These efforts do not always come easily, but results are universally supported and lasting. Progress is measureable – a critical element to continuing support.

The Conservation Leadership Council is a group whose efforts promise to advance conservation across the Country, and diminish the harsh partisan battling that is counter-productive to sustainable progress. They provide a beacon to follow through the challenging waters of resource conservation in the coming years. They are personal  friends and professional colleagues, and have my full support.  For more, visit www.leadingwithconservation.org .

 

National Ocean Policy

The following is reprinted from the recent BoatUS e-newsletter. It highlights ongoing planning that can affect recreational boating. Right now the focus is on the Northeast. Expect that to expand – an issue worth watching….

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Over the last two years, BoatUS has been working on the National Ocean Policy, set in place with an Executive Order from President Obama. How could this affect your access to the water, and on the water?

Early on recreational boating was not being adequately considered, so BoatUS took every opportunity to speak up for our favorite pastime, which now is included in their plans as a key “stakeholder.”

As part of this work, a study is now underway in New England to measure the economic impact of recreational boating. (Boaters can participate in this study by clicking here.) Be on watch for similar studies and planning that could affect boating in your region and please let us know when you see things starting to happen in your area.

As Ryck Lydecker, Assistant Vice President of Government Affairs, says “Now that policy makers recognize us as “stakeholders” let’s make certain to stake our claims,”
For more background on this topic, click here.

Mid-Atlantic Coast Wind Development

For interested sailors, the lease parcels lie 8+ nautical miles off shore. The link to maps provides a good look at the potential distribution………. reprint from Maryland’s Chesapeake & Coastal Service News – March 2012.

 

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES MAJOR STEPS TOWARD LEASING FOR OFFSHORE WIND PROJECTS IN MID-ATLANTIC

Leasing Process for Commercial Wind Development Initiated for Offshore Maryland

 

 

Kentish Flats wind power farm, in sunset.

Photo by Vattenfall.

On February 2, 2012, the Department of Interior announced that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is moving forward with the process for wind energy lease sales off the coasts of Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware.  BOEM’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessment found that there would be no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases in designated Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) areas off the mid-Atlantic Coast.

 

The environmental assessment considered potential environmental impacts associated with site assessment activities, such as geophysical, geotechnical, archeological and biological surveys and the installation and operation of meteorological towers and buoys.  BOEM will use this environmental assessment to inform future leasing decisions in the Mid-Atlantic, including those emerging from BOEM’s recent Call for Information and Nominations (Call) for Maryland’s Wind Energy Area (WEA). Through this Call, BOEM is soliciting additional lease nominations and is requesting public comments about site conditions, resources and other existing uses of the WEA off the coast of Maryland. Once a lease is obtained and the developer proposes a wind energy generation project on its lease, BOEM will prepare a separate site- and project-specific analysis under NEPA of its construction and operations plan, and provide additional opportunities for public involvement.

 

The Call Area offshore Maryland contains nine whole OCS blocks and 11 partial blocks. A map of the area of interest can be found at: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Maryland.aspx.

 

For more information on Maryland’s efforts to plan for offshore wind and to help the State to balance multiple uses in the ocean, visit http://dnr.maryland.gov/ccp/coastal_resources/oceanplanning.