In response to the Ocean Act of 2008, the Mass. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) issued the state’s Ocean Management Plan in Dec. 2009. Under the Oceans Act, EEA is required to review and update the ocean plan every five years. EEA recently (Sept. 2014) released the new, updated draft plan. It’s just the first draft proposed in the formal process to amend the 2009 version. EEA is accepting comments on the draft; and will issue the final, updated plan based on comments and input received. Read the draft plan here.

The 2009 Ocean Management plan established protections for critical marine habitat and important water-dependent uses in Mass. waters, as well as set siting and performance standards for specific ocean-based development and activities.

The Sept. 2014 draft outlines several proposed updates and changes to the 2009 version. See the table below for a summary of proposed changes regarding special, sensitive, or unique resources related specifically to Cape Cod Bay (changes not related to the Bay are not listed here).

TABLE

Note that right whale core habitat has been expanded west, now almost adjacent to the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. When it comes to large whales, we are most concerned with habitat degradation caused by Pilgrim’s operations, including polluting water (Pilgrim’s thermal plume, for example, reaches nearly 5 miles into the Bay) and killing billions of marine organisms every year with its cooling system (some of the species destroyed by Pilgrim are food for large whales). Read more about Pilgrim’s potential effects on whales here.

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EAA’s new draft report also discusses renewable energy at length, including significant developments in offshore wind, tidal energy, and wave energy. For example, Cape Wind, which was issued the nation’s first commercial lease in 2010 to construct and operate an offshore wind facility in Nantucket Sound, will consist of 130 wind turbines with a total capacity of 468 megawatts. Another important development related to offshore wind is the development of the South Coast Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford. In May 2013, the state and the City of New Bedford broke ground on the project, which will be the first port terminal in the nation specifically designed to support construction, assembly, and deployment of offshore wind activities.

The report also outlines the identification and assessment of offshore beach nourishment sites (to combat coastal erosion), with the goal of advancing a few pilot projects in the next 5 years.  Cape Cod Bay (along with other areas) is listed as a “prohibited and protected area” based on potential and physical environmental impacts, incompatibility and/or adverse interactions with existing uses and sites, and limitations and specifications of dredging operations.

The report also outlines “Other Uses, Activities, and Facilities Allowed under the Ocean Sanctuaries Act and Fail-Safe Review.” These projects include, but are not limited to: 1) Projects authorized under Chapter 91 and deemed to be of public necessity and convenience; and 2) Operation and maintenance of existing municipal, commercial, or industrial facilities and discharges (both of these uses relate to the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station). This 2014 draft plan affirms that for these types of uses, the EEA Secretary retains discretion under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) statute and regulations to review these projects – based on information presented by the project proponent, agency, or public comment. If the use is subject to review, the scope shall indicate applicable siting and performance standards. Reviewing agencies shall use the ocean plan and maps as the guidance for their review of these uses.

Citizens recently requested Massachusetts Department of Protection to hold a public hearing regarding an emergency cooling water system being installed in Cape Cod Bay near Pilgrim. Entergy applied to DEP for a 30-year “Chapter 91” permit to use the public tidelands in front of Pilgrim to install mooring buoys and an outhaul system as an emergency cooling system. Read more about the project here. DEP has agreed to hold the public hearing on this project – this is the last opportunity for people to comment on this project. Please attend! Get the details here.

If you would like to submit comments about EEA’s 2014 draft ocean plan, you can submit them by email to oceanplan@state.ma.us. The deadline is 5:00 p.m. on Nov. 25, 2014.