State of the Beach/Model Programs/Regional Planning

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Regional Planning

Below, examples pertaining to regional planning follow Surfrider Foundation's findings and recommendations in this area.

FINDING: Beach health issues tend to be regional in nature. Natural systems don't recognize state or local boundaries. Erosion of barrier islands is a concern in Florida and the Carolinas. Water quality is an issue for Michigan, Wisconsin and all the states that hug the Great Lakes shores. The same can be said for the states surrounding Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound. Although beach access, water quality, and beach erosion concerns are slightly different in southern California than in northern California, Oregon, and Washington, they are a common problem all along the West Coast. Exploring issues and treating problems in isolation can lead to incorrect or incomplete solutions, as well as missed opportunities. Besides being more effective, an ecosystem-wide approach is also a more efficient use of time and money.

RECOMMENDATION: Work as team. As a coastal manager or regulator it is easy to focus exclusively on your particular topic and territory. Communication and coordination - between agencies, across jurisdictional boundaries, and among the full range of organizations and individuals interested in the coast and ocean - can be difficult and time-consuming. Special area management planning is one mechanism to engage stakeholders around regional issues. The reward of such efforts is not only improved efficiency, but also enhanced resource protection and economic opportunities.

Program Examples - Regional Planning


Southern Maine property owners, shoreline business owners, municipal staff, environmental grounds joined SPO, DEP, MIF&W, and the Maine Geological Survey in a multi-stakeholder process to identify common ground, avoid future conflicts, and establish increased protection for Maine's sand beaches. Ongoing concerns regarding beach erosion, property at risk, endangered and threatened species habitat, public access, and the regulation of shoreline development prompted the formation of the stakeholders group. The group's product, Improving Maine's Beaches was published in 1998. Recommendations included but continued planning and implementation activities in the following categories: erosion, environmental monitoring, economic analysis, flood insurance claims data, hazard disclosure requirements and regional beach planning. A key finding of the report was that regional groups should be formed to create management plans for shared beach systems. A Memorandum of Agreement between the MCP, the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission (SMRCP) and the towns of Scarborough, Old Orchard Beach, Saco, Wells and Kennebunk was developed to create a framework for a three year regional beach management planning process. These regional beach plans are intended to create a common agenda for management of shared sand beach systems. The Saco Bay Plan has been adopted. The Wells Bay and Scarborough Plans were to be adopted as of June 2001. The plans make a range of recommendations including creation of monitoring programs and public education programs, modification of jetties, and creation of state beach nourishment policies. Surveys of public access needs were conducted as part of the process.

SMRPC is currently managing a three-year regional beach management project for southern Maine's beaches. The first year focuses on Saco Bay, the second year on Wells Bay and the third and final year on Scarborough and Higgins beaches in Scarborough. Issues to be addressed include coastal erosion and damage to property, wildlife habitat and natural resource protection, economic impact of beaches, geological processes, and coastal regulatory policies. The project is a collaborative effort between local, regional, state, and federal interests. Funding is provided by the Maine State Planning Office and participating municipalities, including Wells, Kennebunk, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, and Scarborough.

The Saco Bay Regional Beach Management Plan, finalized in February 2000, recommends that the Maine Geological Survey develop a sand nourishment policy for Maine's beaches to ensure that nourishment is undertaken in an appropriate manner, considering bird habitat and natural sand movement processes. Ongoing regional beach management planning coordinated by the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission is available online.


A bill passed in April 2006 by the New York State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee creates a New York Ocean and Bays Protection Council to coordinate state marine resources decisions, encourage ecosystem-based management approaches, and ensure that accurate information about the state of coastal fisheries is more widely available. It also calls on the Council to create a comprehensive, ecosystem-based ocean management plan by the fall of 2008. Also see the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council.

In July 2006, US Representatives Jim Saxton and Frank Pallone, Jr. of New Jersey were joined by nearly 75 citizens and representatives of organizations and businesses on the boardwalk of Atlantic City to celebrate the announcement of the introduction of “The New Jersey/New York Clean Ocean Zone” Bill. The goal of the bi-state federal bill is to permanently protect the waters off the coast from polluting activities.

The New Jersey Assembly passed A. 4332 in January 2008, which would establish a New Jersey Coastal and Ocean Protection Council to help safeguard the state’s valuable and unique coastal and ocean resources. The Senate passed an identical version of this bill – S. 2645 (SCS) – by an overwhelming majority on December 10, 2007. The nine-member NJ Coastal and Ocean Protection Council would consist of agency staff and members of the public dedicated to preventing marine resources depletion through adopting ecosystem-based management (EBM) approaches. EBM moves beyond traditional species-by-species, problem-by-problem management approaches to take account of factors such as food web interactions and the availability of suitable habitat like submerged aquatic vegetation to sustain ocean life.


Rocky Shores: The 2001 Assessment suggests that demand for public access since 1997 has not increased significantly. It goes on to report that there are several impediments to increased public access on Oregon's coast. One has been the increased threat of destruction to natural resources by the very people being provided the access. The situation was sufficiently serious that in 1994 Oregon developed the Rocky Shores Management Program. It is intended to provide clear policies and site-specific management and protection of the unique rocky shore ecosystems along our coast.

The 1994 adoption of the Rocky Shore Strategy into Oregon's Territorial Sea Plan provided a management framework for implementing a variety of measures including a special area management strategy for nearshore reefs. Since 1997 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has conducted fieldwork in rocky reef areas, tested equipment and study methodologies in this largely unstudied environment, identified habitat and ecosystem structure, and conducted assessments of management needs and options. Initially focused on kelp resources and the potential of consequences of commercial kelp harvest, this work shifted to broader consideration of rocky reef communities regardless of the kelp canopy component and to the ecological role of isolated hard-bottom reef areas with minimal vertical structure. This work resulted in significant improvement of specific information about the location, structure, and habitat and ecosystem relationships of important reef areas.

Until recently Oregon's ocean management has addressed single-issues or single-resources concerns such as kelp-harvest, protection of threatened or endangered species, effects of submarine cables, site-specific user/wildlife conflicts, overuse of tide-pools, offshore oil and gas or mineral exploration and development, etc. These issues still arise episodically. However, large scale-structural changes in west coast marine fisheries have resulted in the need to adjust ocean resource policy and management to more broad-scale, integrative view and to coalesce single-issue problems into a larger multi-issue context that considers both state and federal waters. New regulations and alternative management approaches are needed to sustain nearshore fisheries and protect habitat. The public interest groups and even the Pacific Fishery Management Council are calling for no-take marine fishery reserves (marine reserves) as a means of addressing problems of over-fishing or significant declines of some species of groundfish (rockfish) on the west coast and as a management tool that responds to ecosystem needs rather than singe species or single issues. (From 2001 CZM Section 309 Assessment and Strategy)

Sandy Shores: Recognizing problems with the continued reliance on site-specific decision-making, and the benefits of area-wide management OCMP developed a Guide to Littoral Cell Management Planning along the Oregon Coast. This document describes how the concept of special area management planning can be applied to the reduction of risk to new and existing development from chronic coastal natural hazards. A littoral cell management plan is a comprehensive, integrated, area-wide hazards management strategy unique to different physical and social settings found along the Oregon coast. It is focused on the reduction of risk to new and existing oceanfront development from chronic coastal natural hazards. A littoral cell management plan should include: littoral cell inventories, a chronic hazards management strategy, and implementing mechanisms. The plans are built as map and inventory projects using Geographic Information System [GIS] software. Additional information on littoral cell management planning is available on the OOCMP website.


On September 18, 2006 the Governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health. The Agreement (later renamed an Alliance) launched a new, proactive regional collaboration to protect and manage the ocean and coastal resources along the entire West Coast, as called for in the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission.

The Agreement seeks to advance the goals of:

  • Clean coastal waters and beaches;
  • Healthy ocean and coastal habitats;
  • Effective ecosystem-based management;
  • Reduced impacts of offshore development;
  • Increased ocean awareness and literacy among the region’s citizens; and
  • Expanded ocean and coastal scientific information, research, and monitoring;
  • Sustainable economic development of coastal communities.

The Alliance also underscores the importance of managing activities that affect our oceans on an ecosystem basis. That is, managing human activities and their impact on ocean resources in a way that accounts for the relationships among all ecosystem components, including people and other species and the environment in which we all live.



The Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) is a state and federal partnership that facilitates the New England states, federal agencies, regional organizations, and other interested regional groups in addressing ocean and coastal issues that benefit from a regional response. It is NROC’s mission to provide a voluntary forum for New England states and federal partners to coordinate and collaborate on regional approaches to support balanced uses and conservation of the Northeast region’s ocean and coastal resources.

NROC was formed in 2005 by the Governors of the New England states — Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut — to serve as a forum for the development of goals and priorities and address regional coastal and ocean management challenges with creative solutions. Recognizing the importance of the national role in these regional issues, NROC was expanded to include federal agencies as members of the Council. In addition to its members, NROC works with bordering states and countries as needed.


On June 4, 2009, New York Governor David A. Paterson and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine announced an historic interstate agreement committed to improving ocean health by creating the Governors Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO). Recognizing that renewable offshore energy can foster a more efficient and sustainable regional economy and improve the quality of life for citizens, the Governors are creating a structure for the States to collaborate on improving energy security and independence in the region through development of offshore renewable energy while accommodating other ocean uses.

The governors announced the agreement at the Mid-Atlantic Governors Ocean Summit at the Borough of Manhattan College where they were joined by representatives from the offices of Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. They were also joined by White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco.

The governors will take action to address three other pressing ocean issues as they initiate their formal partnership. Those priorities include: increased protection of the most unique and sensitive offshore habitats; climate change and sea level rise; increased federal support for water quality infrastructure improvements; and reducing marine debris.


In October 2009 the Governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia announced an agreement to work together to better manage and protect ocean and coastal resources, ensure regional economic sustainability and respond to disasters such as hurricanes. The South Atlantic Alliance will leverage resources from each state to protect and maintain healthy coastal ecosystems, keep waterfronts working, enhance clean ocean and coastal waters and help make communities more resilient after they’ve been struck by natural disasters.


The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is a partnership of the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, with the goal of significantly increasing regional collaboration to enhance the ecological and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico. The five U.S. Gulf States have identified six priority issues that are regionally significant and can be effectively addressed through increased collaboration at local, state, and federal levels: Water Quality, Habitat Conservation and Restoration, Ecosystem Integration and Assessment, Nutrients & Nutrient Impacts, Coastal Community Resilience, and Environmental Education.


The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration is a wide-ranging, cooperative effort to design and implement a strategy for the restoration, protection and sustainable use of the Great Lakes. In 2003, at the request of a Great Lakes congressional delegation and as a first step in providing the leadership and coordination all agree is needed, the Great Lakes governors identified nine priorities for Great Lakes restoration and protection. Since their release, these priorities have been adopted by the Great Lakes mayors, the Great Lakes Commission and other Great Lakes leaders. Eight of these priorities form the organizing principles for the GLRC Strategy. Key Great Lakes Regional Collaboration partners include:

  • Council of Great Lakes Governors
  • Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative
  • Great Lakes Congressional Task Force
  • Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes National Program Office