Healthy Oceans Blog

A Birthday with Milestones for the Entire Nation to Celebrate!

Happy Birthday National Ocean Policy! This weekend the National Stewardship Policy for the Ocean, Our Coasts and Great Lakes (aka the National Ocean Policy, NOP) will have been around for half a decade. So, if you are at a backyard BBQ this Sunday, July 19 –the day the NOP officially turns five — don’t forget to raise a glass, bottle, or juice-box to commemorate our nation’s first comprehensive stewardship policy for the ocean, our coasts, and Great Lakes.

I was seven months pregnant and surviving the summer in Washington, D.C. when President Obama established the National Ocean Policy via Executive Order 13547. As I prepare to celebrate both my daughter’s and the NOP’s 5th birthday I cannot help but reflect on and rejoice over the journey of the past five years.

The National Ocean Policy is based on the U.S. Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force’s Final Recommendations released the same day and adopted by the Executive Order. The Final Recommendations call for the National Ocean Policy and lays out nine overarching principles referred to as the “priority objectives” working toward

“an America whose stewardship ensures that the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes are healthy and resilient, safe and productive, and understood and treasured so as to promote the well-being, prosperity, and security of present and future generations.”

A sentiment that resonates as strongly with me now as it did when I was many months pregnant- what we do now impacts not only the future of the ocean but the next generation as well.

So what have we done over the past five years to get there?

First for a bit of context … the 2013 National Ocean Policy’s Implementation Plan (Plan) focuses and elaborates on the Final Recommendation’s nine priority objectives referenced above.   The Plan put actions to those objectives and mobilized the National Ocean Policy by putting into play steps federal agencies could take to advance the Policy’s vision of ensuring healthy oceans and coasts while creating stronger economies for our coastal communities.

The plan outlined 200 plus stakeholder vetted actions and identified the most pressing challenges and available resources to tackle the issues. The Plan created common sense strategies for good governance to help support ocean-dependent economies, enable states and communities to become better stewards for their coasts, and aimed to foster better communication and coordination.

That is all good and well but what have we actually done to advance the goals of the National Ocean Policy? Fear not- there is much to be celebrating on Sunday!

We can look to the March 2015 Report on the Implementation of the National Ocean Policy as a barometer of success for the advancement of the National Ocean Policy and the forward momentum we’ve achieved in relation to the objectives laid out in the Plan. The report details milestones and advancements ranging from improving coastal and ocean resilience to providing local communities with tools to plan for a better future. Of the 200 plus actions in the Plan:

  • 77% of the Implementation Plan’s actions are either completed or “well underway”
  • Approximately one-third of the 2013 actions are fully completed
  • Only 4% have not yet been started, and only one of the items are deemed “overdue”

In the spirit of celebration I am compelled to highlight some notable accomplishments and achievements under the NOP emphasized in the report. My MVP’s if you will.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a workbook, Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans that provides critical guidance for conducting risk-based climate change vulnerability assessments and developing adaptation action plans. This is a critical activity in support of the plan and one that is fully underway and in need of continued support in many of our states and communities.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Global Change Research Program partnered to create an interactive sea level rise mapping and calculator tool that helps city planners identify and prepare for future flood risks. The tool allows state and local planners to make more informed decisions that consider the risk in location and design of redevelopment projects. Tools like this are paramount as we continue to create safe and resilient communities throughout the nation.

And last but certainly not least, I need to give a special shout out to Regional Ocean Planning. No longer suffering through the Mid-Atlantic D.C. summers (sorry D.C. friends) but rather enjoying summers in New England – I have had the pleasure of being very involved in the Northeast Regional Ocean Planning process over the last two years.

Regional Ocean Planning is a collaborative effort that seeks to improve decision making through increased coordination and communication between (and within) government and stakeholders to find a more efficient way of managing our resources resulting in a win- win situation for all. (The HOC wrote about this very topic last week here).

Playing nice in the sandbox.

Ocean Planning reminds me of the evolution of interactions between my daughter and her friends in the sandbox. She has had had a solid crew of five friends since she started daycare in New Hampshire three years ago. They all have very different personalities and see the utility of the sandbox in their own unique ways. One is hell bent on taking all of the sand out, which angers another to no end as she tries to push all the sand to the edges as a protective border, a third only wants to make roads, the fourth unfortunately likes to throw sand, and the fifth… well my daughter used to eat the sand!

There has been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears over the years but there is now a conscious effort and mutual respect among all the kids to ensure that there is enough sand for everyone’s use- they have realized that at the end of the day they all want to continue playing in the same space. Five is a good age.

What a difference five years can make. My daughter has learned to share (and thankfully not to eat sand) and the Northeast will be wrapping up the country’s precedent setting first Regional Ocean Plan. What a pair of milestones and accomplishments!

With the support of the National Ocean Policy, together, we are beginning to think and act differently in how we make decisions for the health of our oceans and for the well- being of future generations.

So I raise my glass to you, dear daughter and National Ocean Policy, and wish you both a very happy fifth birthday.

Check out the first four entries in our five part blog series on the National Ocean Policy:

For more about the lead up to the National Ocean Policy please visit HOC blog: Origins of Our National Ocean Policy

For more about the NOP’s Coordination Focus please read our post:Coordinate, Collaborate, Engage

For more about the NOP’s Implementation Efforts, please read: Coordinations, Implementation, and Actions

For more on Ocean Planning please visit HOC blog: Marine Planning By Any Other Name Would Still Be As Sweet

For how you can support healthy oceans by celebrating the National Ocean Policy, click here