The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) provides the national policy leadership, science, and expertise needed to maintain our nation's coastal resources. OCRM administers the Coastal Zone Management Act and assists states in managing the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, provides science and information for the management of the nation's system of marine protected areas, and supports effective management and sound science to protect coral reef ecosystems.
NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee sign an agreement acknowledging the incorporation of the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan into the state's coastal zone management program.
In May, OCRM approved the incorporation of the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP) into Rhode Island’s federally approved coastal zone management program. The new, innovative ocean management plan improves state review processes and policies to facilitate the development of offshore projects that could lead to the creation of hundreds of wind energy jobs and balance energy development with transportation, fishing, recreation, and environmental stewardship along the state’s coast and adjacent federal waters. The Ocean SAMP, which furthers the objectives of President Obama’s 2010 National Ocean Policy, is the first comprehensive ocean plan to be incorporated into a state coastal zone management program.
CELCP funds helped secure a conservation easement over Jenner Headlands, a 5.6-acre property in Sonoma County, California. The easement protects a unique coastal bluff and grasslands ecosystem, several creeks and drainages, and forested uplands.
Thirteen new projects totaling $11 million, anticipated to protect 3,941 aces in seven coastal states, were selected for funding through Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Criteria for selection include a project’s contribution to ecological conservation, recreational opportunities, aesthetic and historical significance, and technical and scientific merit. These new awards will help protect coastal watersheds in Florida, Maine, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin. The 2011 CELCP projects will bring the total number of acres protected to more than 75,000 since the program began in 2002. Helping communities save valuable natural areas contributes to the Coastal Zone Management Act’s national policy goals, as well as NOAA’s other habitat-related objectives, such as strengthening coastal community resilience, enhancing fish ecosystems, and saving essential habitat for protected species.
The Marine Protected Area (MPA) Center co-chaired the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the North American Marine Protected Areas Network (NAMPAN) Study Group on Designing Marine Protected Area Networks in a Changing Climate. In August, the Study Group held a workshop in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to develop the first scientific guidelines to help MPA managers and planners in North America design, assess, and modify MPAs and MPA networks in an era of changing physical and biological conditions brought about by climate change. These guidelines were developed by NAMPAN Study Group members from Canada, Mexico, and the United States to provide a common approach to MPA network planning and management. The guidelines will provide planners, managers, and stakeholders with a new tool to make informed decisions in light of expected climate change impacts. In 2012, NAMPAN and ICES will work with scientists to review and apply the guidelines, providing input that will allow them to be tailored to specific geographic regions.
Kids viewing the Apalachicola Bay mural that is part of the interpretative area of the new Apalachicola NERR facility. The facility opened in the summer of 2011 and includes an interpretive center, meeting spaces, research labs, and offices for the staff of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) System demonstrates commitment to education and coastal stewardship through the design and construction of new green education and research centers at Apalachicola NERR and Mission Aransas NERR. The LEED certified Apalachicola NERR Nature Center in Florida, features 18,000 square feet of learning space, including two working wet and dry research laboratories.
Representing the river, bay, and gulf habitats found in Apalachicola, the center features three large walk-around tanks that each hold over 1,000 gallons and house a variety of native plant life and creatures. Additionally, the new headquarters of the Mission-Aransas NERR, built in partnership between the University of Texas at Austin and Marine Science Institute, NOAA, and the Texas General Land Office is the first research and educational facility in South Texas constructed for certification by LEED. This facility expands the research and educational capacity of the reserve with two floors of state-of-the-art marine laboratories and offices.
The Center includes a number of innovative features that decrease its impact on the sensitive coastal environment while also protecting it from hurricanes and extreme coastal temperatures and winds.
The Pacific Island Watershed Institute (PIWI) was the first hosted by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program tailored for state and territorial staff, officials, watershed leaders, and watershed and storm water professionals in the Pacific Islands. NOAA engaged with 80 participants, including 30 participants from American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. This is the first Watershed Institute specifically for the Pacific Islands; previous Institutes have been conducted on the mainland. The workshop was a mix of lectures, group and field exercises and island-specific working sessions. Topics included watershed planning, watershed assessment methods, erosion and sediment control for islands, and stormwater best management practices for islands. The training took place in June in Windward Oahu, Hawaii.
The PIWI aims to change the way watershed and storm water practitioners think about island watersheds and to impart new skills and tools to understand and manage challenging island watershed issues. The PIWI was conducted by the Horsley Witten Group, the Center for Watershed Protection, NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, and guest speakers.