Washington’s reliance on ocean and coastal resources has resulted in a rich state history in policy and management of these resources. Concern over uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state’s shorelines prompted Washington to adopt of the Shoreline Management Act in 1972. During the 1980s, concerns over proposed oil and gas drilling off the coast resulted in adoption of the Ocean Resources Management Act (ORMA). More recently, the state adopted the Marine Waters Planning & Management Act in 2010, to enable development of marine spatial plans. In 2013, the Legislature established the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council to provide a forum for discussing and providing recommendations on coastal and ocean policy issues on Washington’s Pacific Coast.
In the early 2000s, two national initiatives, the Pew Oceans Commission and the Congressionally-mandated U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, conducted a thorough study of ocean and coastal issues and management in the United States. Both groups issued reports that highlighted critical ocean and coastal issues and needs and presented many recommendations for improving ocean resource management and policy. Today, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a bipartisan leadership council, continues to promote meaningful ocean policy reform.
As a result of the national level commissions, the 2005 Washington State Legislature directed the Governor’s Office to investigate state ocean resources and report back with recommendations for improving management of Washington’s ocean resources. Released in December 2006, the final report, called Washington’s Ocean Action Plan, contained over 50 recommendations for improving protection and management of Washington’s ocean resources (Final Report: Volume 1, Volume 2). This led to the creation of the State Ocean Caucus to improve state level interagency coordination.
Washington’s Ocean Action Plan also recommended collaborating with other West Coast governments on ocean policy issues, including other states and British Columbia. On September 18, 2006, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced the "West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health." Known as the West Coast Governors Alliance, this regional ocean partnership has most recently collaborated on regional priorities such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, marine debris, and the development of a regional ocean data portal. The Alliance is currently developing a strategic framework that will create a more robust partnership involving West Coast tribes.
In 2010, President Obama signed an executive order establishing a National Ocean Policy, which is implemented by the National Ocean Council, made up of senior leadership from key federal agencies. The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, released in 2013, describes specific actions federal agencies will take to address key ocean challenges, give states and communities greater input in federal decisions, streamline federal operations, save taxpayer dollars, and promote economic growth.
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