Ocean Protection, Marine Spatial Planning
October 19 2017

State of Washington Releases Draft Marine Spatial Plan

by Gus GatesCasey Dennehy

The Washington Department of Ecology recently released the Draft Marine Spatial Plan for Washington’s Pacific Coast for review and comment by interested parties, agencies, and tribes through December 12, 2017. The draft plan provides information on ocean uses and resources and a framework for evaluating proposed new ocean uses on Washington’s Pacific Coast. This plan is the result of an inclusive process with numerous stakeholder representatives convened on the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council, including recreational representation by the Surfrider Foundation, as well as the incorporation of the best available science. Below is a bit of the back-story of how we got to this point over many years, where to go for additional information, and how to take action and submit comments on the draft plan.

How we got here: Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a comprehensive process for gathering information on coastal and ocean activities and environments, providing recommendations for siting new ocean uses, creating a process for coordinating across all levels of government, and ensuring stakeholder input when new ocean uses are proposed.

Surfrider Foundation Washington chapters have been supporting the State’s MSP process all the way back to 2010; from playing a lead advocacy role in securing essential funding and building the case, to helping initiate a planning process via our outreach video, to conducting a study on coastal recreation, and attending meeting after meeting. Surfrider has been as involved as any other organization and now we finally have a draft plan for Washington’s outer coast stretching from Cape Disappointment on the South end to Cape Flattery on the North end. All along the way, we’ve been fortunate to have Surfrider staffer Casey Dennehy representing the voice of coastal recreational users in the countless hours of agency and stakeholder meetings, wordsmithing policy language, reviewing maps and data layers, and developing standards and review criteria for how future decisions will be made.  According to Casey, "It’s been a long and oftentimes challenging process but Washingtonians should be very proud that we potentially have the best Marine Spatial Plan in the country. It was a truly collaborative process between agencies and stakeholders. Considering all the various interests, a plan that perfectly satisfies everyone isn’t really possible, but we can say with certainty that this comes pretty close and that all interests, including fishing, shellfish aquaculture, conservation, and recreation were listened to and adequately addressed."

The development of the Washington MSP builds upon Surfrider's Ocean Protection Initiative, and compliments our previous engagement in ocean planning processes that have taken place in Oregon, and the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Washington Ocean and Coastal Recreational Use Study: A key contribution of the planning process by Surfrider, was to initiate a study on ocean and coastal recreation along the Washington coast. Prior to this study, spatially explicit data on the various recreational uses and the associated economic contributions didn’t exist.

Coastal recreation provides significant economic and social benefits to coastal communities and the state—these include direct expenditures, as well as social benefits such as citizen enjoyment. In 2014, Washington residents took an estimated 4.1 million trips to the coast, with nearly 60 percent indicating their primary purpose was recreation. That recreation included a variety of activities including beach going (67%), sightseeing (62%), photography (36%) hiking and biking (33%), surfing/kayaking/boating (7%) and wildlife viewing (40%). When at the coast, the average respondent spent $117.14 per trip, translating to an estimated $481 million dollars in total direct expenditures for coastal communities and the state, through hotel visits, shopping, dining and other trip-related expenditures.

More Information on the Plan and Upcoming Workshops: The State of Washington is holding a series of public workshops in November to provide information on the draft Marine Spatial Plan and opportunities for public comment. We encourage everyone to attend one of these meetings and let the state know what you think of the plan. All meetings start at 6 pm and are open to the public.

  • Nov. 1, Forks; Dept. of Natural Resources, Olympic Region Conference room, 411 Tillicum Lane.
  • Nov. 7, Aberdeen; Grays Harbor College, Manspeaker Bldg., Room 2250, 1620 Edward P. Smith Dr.
  • Nov. 8, Long Beach; Cranberry Museum, 2907 Pioneer Road.
  • Nov. 9, Tukwila; Tuwila Community Center, 12424 42nd Ave. S.

Take action & Submit Comments: Surfrider Washington Chapters are in the process of reviewing the draft plan and will be developing a sign on letter for all of the chapters to participate in. If you have individual comments, you can submit them electronically:                                                                     

Submit comments online by Dec. 12, 2017

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