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Ranker: New national ocean policy good for Washington state

After President Obama signed an executive order establishing the first-ever national ocean policy Tuesday, state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D- San Juan Island, said Washington state is uniquely positioned to benefit from this unprecedented effort to coordinate national policy for our oceans and coastlines.

“Nothing has highlighted our nation’s dependence on healthy oceans and coasts more than the current BP oil spill disaster,” Ranker said in a press release. “A massive spill in the Puget Sound or on our coast is unthinkable, but it’s not impossible. It’s clear that we can and must do better in how we protect and manage our oceans.”

The new federal ocean policy framework includes marine spatial planning as a key element, which Ranker helped establish as state policy when his Senate Bill 6350 passed into law in the 2010 legislative session. Washington became only the second state in the nation to adopt this tool for balancing and regulating the multiple uses of shoreline and aquatic lands – which include fishing, aquaculture, shipping, recreation and potential renewable energy facilities – in a comprehensive manner.

“At the federal level, you have 20 separate agencies trying to implement 140 separate and sometimes conflicting laws governing specific activities like commercial fishing, coastal development, water pollution control, issuing oil and gas contracts – just to name a few,” Ranker said. “It’s time for a management structure to not only identify all the multiple management objectives but also to coordinate across agencies and with the states to help us uniformly manage our ocean resources and protect them from harm. That’s what we’ve done in Washington and our efforts will fit beautifully with the same approach now being adopted at the federal level.”

In 2009, Obama convened a task force of 24 federal agencies and ordered them to develop recommendations for a policy that protects, maintains and restores our ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems. Ranker testified before the task force at the White House Conference Center.

“Those who depend on our aquatic resources – those in fishing, shipping and energy, as well as conservationists and recreationists – know that protecting our marine resources means protecting Washington’s economy and our nation’s economy now and into the future,” Ranker said. “There’s no question that we need to repair the damage in the Gulf of Mexico, but we especially need to work towards the future now with the type of national ocean policy that, among other things, will help ensure that a similar disaster never happens again.”

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