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OR Moves Forward on Ocean Planning Goals

August 2, 2010

SALEM, Ore. - Just a couple of weeks after President Obama authorized creation of the county's first National Ocean Policy, an Oregon task force has completed recommendations it has been working on for months for a similar, state-based plan for Oregon's offshore waters. The deadline for recommendations by the Nearshore Task Force, created by the legislature, is today.

Plenty of challenges exist for the three miles of ocean directly off Oregon's shore, from developing wave energy and creating marine reserves to supporting a healthy fishing industry.

Leesa Cobb, director of the Port Orford Ocean Research Team's Community-Based Fisheries Project and a task force member, says the goal is to place all the priorities under a central umbrella that is scientific instead of political.

"What we're trying to do is develop a really unbiased process, so that Oregon has an overall planning document for its territorial sea that we can follow, step by step. Then we can go out and try and secure funding for the projects, and it all will be very science-based."

The Nearshore Task Force chair, Dr. Stephen Brandt of Oregon State University, also directs the Oregon Sea Grant program. Compared to many states, he says Oregon is ahead of the curve when it comes to ocean planning. The state recommendations have a lot in common with the new National Ocean Policy, he adds, including goals to save taxpayer dollars in the long term.

"In the package of recommendations we make, there are key points about coordination, avoidance of duplication of effort and setting priorities. Those kinds of things, and public involvement in the process, would make the system far more efficient, with present dollars."

One recommendation is to set up an Oregon Sea Trust, a nonprofit arm to raise money for specific projects. The legislature and governor will study the Nearshore Task Force report, which could result in legislation for the next session.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR