Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary gets new mangement plan
By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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This was announced when a new management plan for the sanctuary was officially adopted on Tuesday.
Marine scientists are raring to put it into action.
“We’re excited that we are actually starting to do the work,” said George Galasso, acting sanctuary superintendent.
The sanctuary’s headquarters are at The Landing mall in Port Angeles.
The sanctuary stretches from Cape Flattery near Neah Bay south 162 miles to the mouth of the Copalis River in Grays Harbor County and 25 to 40 miles offshore.
The management plan is a roadmap for the future of the sanctuary.
“It includes detailed guidance for program priorities that we will use to manage this special undersea place for future generations to enjoy,” Galasso said.
The sanctuary protects a productive “upwelling zone” that is home to rich marine mammal and seabird faunas, diverse populations of kelp and intertidal algae, and thriving invertebrate communities, and has more than 150 documented historical shipwrecks.
The new management plan began with public workshops and forums in 2008.
Then National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) representatives worked closely with the Intergovernmental Policy Council — an agency comprised of representatives from the Hoh, Quileute, Makah and Quinault coastal tribes and the state of Washington.
The plan emphasizes the nature and significance of the sanctuary’s treaty trust responsibility to the tribes, and includes 20 directives, composed of a series of non-regulatory actions, regulatory strategies and activities.
The initial draft of the plan was introduced in January, with public meetings and comment sessions through March.
It provides a framework for the sanctuary to refine its research, education and outreach programs; create and enhance partnerships; and manage potential threats to the sanctuary’s marine resources.
Periodic management plan review is required by Congress for each of NOAA’s 13 national marine sanctuaries.
The most obvious change is a ban on cruise ship wastewater dumping.
Bans on cruise ship wastewater dumping within the marine sanctuary include treated or untreated sewage, bilge water and gray water.
Cruise ships cross the sanctuary an average of 280 times each year, Galasso said.
Sixty percent of those ships have advanced wastewater treatment on board, thanks to strict regulations in Alaska and California and voluntary cooperation by cruise ship owners, he said.
However, Galasso said, he still believes there is a large potential for wastewater contamination of the marine sanctuary.
It takes about 2½ hours for a cruise ship to cross the sanctuary, which is not enough time to cause problems for ships turning off their dumping systems.
Size of sanctuary
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1994, was believed to span 2,500 nautical square miles of Pacific Ocean off the Olympic Peninsula coastline.
Measurements using modern mapping techniques indicate that the sanctuary actually includes 2,408 square miles of ocean, the report said.
“It wasn’t really a surprise to me,” Galasso said.
Mapping coastal areas as large as the marine sanctuary is challenging because the sheer size of the area means the curvature of the Earth has to be factored in, he said.
New geographic information systems are far more accurate than older techniques, he said.
The final management plan, regulations and final environmental assessment can be read at http://olympiccoast.noaa.gov/.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: November 02. 2011 11:37PM