Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning


Ocean waters and coastal areas host complex ecosystems and support numerous human activities, both social and economic. With rising demands on our marine resources, effectively balancing competing uses is critical to maintaining these resources. Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) is an approach that provides a framework for determining how ocean and coastal resources can be managed in a way that supports the many, sometimes competing, uses in a sustainable manner.

Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning is a comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based, and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas.

-National Ocean Council

Essentially, CMSP involves identifying various ocean and coastal activities in a particular area and considering how they can be managed in a way that maximizes economic and social benefits, while maintaining the health of the environment on which these activities depend. Oftentimes, this involves mapping marine activities and resources- both spatially and temporally- to evaluate existing activities and anticipate future uses. This analysis can then be used to develop a plan for effectively managing ocean and coastal resources. 


Until recently, CMSP efforts have been led primarily by coastal states. However, increasing demands on marine resources and a growing awareness of climate change have focused more attention on responsible management of oceans and coastal resources, and a National Ocean Policy is now in place. With various planning programs being implemented on the state, regional and federal levels, it is important that these efforts are coordinated to the fullest extent possible so that they are complementary to each other. The following initiatives are examples of the application of CMSP to ocean renewable energy:

Oregon Territorial Sea Plan

The State of Oregon recently amended its Territorial Sea Plan (TSP) by adding a new section to ensure responsible and appropriate siting and development of ocean renewable energy projects. This new section, Part Five: Use of the Territorial Sea for the Development of Renewable Energy Facilities or Other Related Structures, Equipment or Facilities, is intended protect areas important to living marine organisms, ecosystem integrity, marine habitat, and areas important to fisheries from potential adverse effects of ocean renewable energy. 

In addition to incorporating a new section into the TSP, the amendment process involves identifying appropriate locations for ocean renewable energy development. The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development is leading a spatial analysis initiative to create maps of existing ocean uses and resources that can be used to designate areas appropriate for ocean renewable energy. As the space-use data layers of the maps are created, they are uploaded to Oregon Marine Map to facilitate the positioning of nearshore marine habitats and renewable ocean energy sites through visualization, analysis, and collaboration. Once the maps are finalized, they will be incorporated into Part Five of the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan, and the designated ocean renewable energy areas on the maps will become enforceable.

West Coast Regional Ocean Partnership

Under the National Ocean Council's CMSP framework, the United States is subdivided into nine regional planning areas. The West Coast Governor's Alliance on Ocean Health (WCGA) is the federally recognized Regional Ocean Partnership (ROP) for the West Coast region, which includes Oregon, California and Washington. As the West Coast ROP, the WCGA will lead the development of regional planning goals, objectives, and, ultimately, a regional Coastal and Marine Spatial Plan. In December 2010, the WCGA submitted two funding proposals for the ROP and its CMSP efforts.

In addition to the activities as the West Coast ROP, the WCGA established the Renewable Ocean Energy Action Coordination Team (REACT), a collaborative working group that is developing strategies to ensure comprehensive planning of ocean renewable energy activities along the west coast.

OCS Renewable Energy Task Forces

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) is working with several coastal states to pursue intergovernmental coordination and communication on OCS renewable energy through task forces that involves the federal, state, local and tribal governments. Information about the federal-state task forces is summarized in the State Activities section of the BOEM website.  

National Ocean Council: Coastal & Marine Spatial Planning Framework

The National Ocean Council (NOC) is comprised of officials from departments, agencies and offices throughout the Federal government. One of the priority objectives identified by the NOC is Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP).  Specifically, the NOC aims to Implement comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem-based coastal and marine spatial planning and management in the United States.  To that end, the NOC is preparing a Strategic Action Plan to meet the CMSP objectives.  Draft outlines for each strategic action plan were released for public comment in the summer of 2011, and the feedback received will be applied to the final plans.