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Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles has released the first draft of the agency's comprehensive ocean management plan for public review and comment.

The draft plan for management of the state's ocean waters provides additional protections for critical environmental resources in nearly two-thirds of the planning area - coastal waters at least 0.3 nautical miles seaward of mean high water and excluding the most developed harbor and port areas, and then extending to the three-mile limit of state control - and identifies two areas adjacent to federal waters as suitable for commercial-scale wind energy development.

Once finalized, the ocean management plan will provide a comprehensive framework for managing, reviewing and permitting proposed uses of state waters. Up to now, development in state waters has been handled on an ad hoc basis. The plan provides a road map for both environmental protection and sustainable use of ocean resources going forward.

The draft ocean plan establishes three management categories and applies them to Massachusetts ocean waters: prohibited areas, multi-use areas and renewable energy areas.

The renewable energy areas are locations specifically designated for commercial wind energy facilities. The draft plan recognizes the commonwealth's statutory mandates to develop renewable energy, but designates locations for such development with regard for potential environmental impacts and use conflicts.

The draft ocean plan identifies two proposed designated wind energy areas in the vicinity of the southern end of the Elizabeth Islands and southwest of Nomans Land. Adjacent to these areas, EEA has identified potentially suitable locations in federal waters for commercial-scale wind energy development.

Comprising 2% of the planning area, these locations are theoretically capable of supporting 166 wind turbines with a capability of 3.6 MW each - roughly 600 MW total.

The draft plan is now subject to public review and comment. Five public hearings will be held on the plan, tentatively scheduled for the first two weeks of September, with one in each of five regions: North Shore, Boston Harbor, South Shore, Cape Cod and Islands, and South Coast.

For more information, visit mass.gov.

SOURCE: Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs



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