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Geospatial Information Layers in Ocean Use Planning: A Case study from an Ocean Disposal Site Designation. Environmental Business Council 4th Annual Ocean Management Conference Progress Update: Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan July 10, 2009 Bay Colony Corporate Center

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Geospatial Information Layers in Ocean Use Planning:

A Case study from an Ocean Disposal Site Designation

Environmental Business Council

4th Annual Ocean Management Conference

Progress Update: Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan

July 10, 2009

Bay Colony Corporate Center

Carlton D. Hunt, Ph.D.



The work discussed here was funded by the

  • U.S. Army New England District Corp of Engineers
  • U.S. EPA Region 1
  • Demonstrate the use of geospatial data in ocean planning using the 2004 Rhode Island Region (RIR) Long Term-Dredged Material Disposal Site EIS Designation Process
  • Convey some lessons applicable to ocean plan development
  • Providence River was not dredged for many years
  • Commerce was severely inhibited
  • Short term solution was a MPRSA 102 Dredged Material Disposal Site designation
    • US Army Corps of Engineers and EPA completed the 102 designation to address immediate need in early 2000
    • Allows dredged material disposal from the PR only for two five-year periods
  • Need for a long-term disposal site was clear
    • To ensure the region’s dredging needs could be accommodated for the next twenty years
    • Long-term cost containment
      • Designations are expensive
    • Politically supported (state and Federal)
laws and regulations governing ocean disposal
Laws and Regulations Governing Ocean Disposal
  • Ports and Harbors Act of 1899
  • Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (MPRSA) and subsequent changes
    • Addresses disposal of materials in ocean waters; requires characterization of material to reduce the potential for adverse environmental effects
    • Authorizes EPA to designate sites and time periods for disposal
    • Requires a Site Monitoring and Management Plan (SMMP) to be developed for each designated disposal site
  • Ocean Dumping Act of 1988 bans disposal of all materials in the ocean except for dredged material
    • Dredged material disposed in the ocean must meet stringent test requirements defined by the “Green Book”
  • Water Resources Development Act of 1992 (WRDA92)
  • Clean Water Act of 1972 (regulates disposal in state waters)
purpose of the rir disposal site eis
Purpose of the RIR Disposal Site EIS
  • To evaluate one or more ocean sites for potential designation as a long-term disposal site for dredged material from the Rhode Island Region.
    • Initiated based on request by Governor Almond
    • Supported by Senator Reid
  • Action taken following designation of the Providence River Dredged Material Disposal Site
how did we get from the purpose to a designated site
How did we get from the purpose to a designated site?
  • Define the need
  • Define a Zone of Siting Feasibility (ZSF)
  • Define candidate site locations within ZSF
    • Screen ZSF using factors and criteria that clearly rule out areas not acceptable for an open water disposal site
  • Define and evaluate alternatives
    • Use remaining factors and criteria to define location and boundaries of alternative sites for evaluation in the EIS
  • Evaluate alternatives including taking no action
    • Describe in detail the affected environments
    • Evaluate environmental consequences of disposal at each alternative
    • Select preferred alternative
  • These steps, in one form or another, are common to any ocean-use evaluation or ocean plan development
dredging needs in the rir
Dredging Needs in the RIR
  • Identified the universe of navigation dependent facilities
  • Survey non Federal navigation dependent facilities to determine dredging needs and 20 year projected volumes
  • Estimate volumes for future Federal dredging projects
  • Mapped expected uses for the Block Island region over the next 20-50 years
  • Defining the needs and potential uses is a key step for multiple-use ocean assessment and planning
zone of siting feasibility
Zone of Siting Feasibility
  • Determination of the ZSF boundaries:
    • Evaluation of five criteria
      • Political boundaries
      • Navigation restrictions
      • Type of disposal equipment
      • Cost of transporting dredged material
      • Distance to Continental Shelf
    • Consideration of safe and practical factors of transporting dredged material to an open water site
    • Incorporation of the Dredging Needs information (where, volumes, type of material)
zone of siting feasibility1
Zone of Siting Feasibility
  • Political boundaries (State vs. Federal jurisdictions)
  • Navigation restrictions (Approach lanes, etc.)
  • Type of disposal equipment (barges)
  • Cost of transporting dredged material
site screening within the zsf
Site Screening within the ZSF
  • Identify areas within the ZSF acceptable for locating a long-term ocean disposal site designated under the MPRSA Ocean Dumping Regulations
  • Identify specific alternative site(s) within the acceptable area(s) for further evaluation in the EIS
  • Identification of areas and sites focused on 5 general (40 CFR 228.5) and 11 specific criteria (40 CFR 228.6) for ocean dredged material site designation

Having these criteria were critical for organizing the approach and data requirements

site screening within the zsf1
Site Screening within the ZSF
  • Defined evaluation factors and data requirements for screening (with RIR workgroup)
    • Sediment characteristics and sediment quality
    • Water quality
    • Biological resources including plankton, benthic invertebrates, finfish, shellfish, lobster, marine mammals and marine and coastal birds
    • Rare, threatened and endangered species
    • Contaminant bioaccumulation potential
    • Socioeconomic impacts
    • Air quality and noise
    • Geological setting and physical oceanography including sediment transport and erosion potential
site screening within the zsf2
Site Screening within the ZSF
  • Performed literature search for relevant documents and data
  • Obtained the documentation
  • Used the information to develop GIS layers showing locations/spatial distribution of evaluation factors
  • Prioritized the screening layers and assigned quantitative screening values, where feasible
    • Tier 1 excluded areas from further consideration
    • Tier 2 evaluated areas using the evaluation levels developed in conjunction with the Working Group
      • Level 1 (exclusionary)
      • Level 2 (discussion required)
      • Level 3 (acceptable)

Early development of consensus, quantitative criteria to rule areas in or out of consideration expedited the assessment.

basis for tier 1 areas ruled out
Basis for Tier 1 Areas Ruled Out
  • ZSF ruled out areas beyond continental shelf and areas seaward of ~ 10 nmi south of Block Island, RI - 228.5(e)
  • Areas of high dispersion (erosion) potential [228.6(a)(6)]
  • Areas with conflicting uses – 228.6(a)(8)
    • Anchorages - 228.5(a); 228.6(a)(3)
    • Reserves and Science areas – 228.5(b)
    • Beaches and amenities – 228.5(b); 228.6(a)(3)
    • Conservation areas (sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, national seashores, parks, fish havens, artificial reefs) - 228.5(b); 228.6(a)(3)
    • Active ordnance/Military use – 228.6(a)(8)
    • Active utilities (pipelines, cable areas, etc.) – 228.6(a)(8)
    • Historic or culturally important areas (e.g. shipwrecks) – 228.6(a)(11)
  • Threatened and Endangered Species Critical Habitat (none in the ZSF)
tier 2 acceptable areas and specific alternative site locations
Tier 2: Acceptable areas and specific alternative site locations
  • Minimizing impact to
    • Fish habitats, fish concentrations – 228.5(a); 228.6(a)(2); 228.6(a)(9); 228.6(a)(8)
    • Shellfisheries/fisheries resource areas – 228.5(a)
    • Living resources (breeding, spawning, nursery, feeding, passage) – 228.6(a)(3)
    • Navigation (shipping lanes, ferry routes, lightering areas) – 228.5(a); 228.6(a)(8)
    • Diving areas – 228.6(a)(8); 228.6(a)(11)
  • Address
    • UXO – 228.6(a)(12)
    • Use of Historical Dump Sites – 228.5(e)
    • Benthic habitat types – 228.6(a)(2)
    • Cultural Resources – 228.6(a)(11)
additional field data were needed to evaluate alternative disposal areas
Additional Field Data were needed to Evaluate Alternative Disposal Areas
  • Data Collection at Alternative Areas E and W to fill data gaps.
the eis also evaluated environmental and socioeconomic impacts
The EIS also Evaluated Environmental and Socioeconomic Impacts
  • Alternatives Evaluated
    • Site W
    • Site E
    • No Action
  • Assess potential impacts from each alternative
    • Impact
    • No Impact
    • Minimal Impact - defined as an impact that is short or mitigable or both
preferred alternative site w
Preferred Alternative - Site W
  • Lower likelihood of sediment transport
  • Greater likelihood of meeting water quality criteria
  • Reduces regional economic impacts
  • Active disposal site
cumulative impacts
Cumulative Impacts
  • Cumulative impact evaluation is a required element of NEPAbut one of the hardest concepts to address
    • Is cumulative the net impact at one location over time?
    • Is cumulative the net impact of all known uses?
    • Is cumulative the net impact of future uses?
    • How do we handle unknown future uses?
    • How do you quantitatively compare different uses?
      • fishing to dredged material disposal, wind farms, etc?
    • How do you define and compare beneficial versus adverse impact across the potential uses?
  • Any ocean use plan must deal with the competing needs and different types of impact within a consistent framework and evaluation criteria
lessons for the ocean use planning
Lessons for the Ocean Use Planning
  • List all known and potential uses (think outside the box to define potential uses and vet these through a public process)
  • List and characterize needs with much detail as possible; use consistent terminology and make metrics as comparable as possible (think future and present)
  • Develop standard screening tools to ensure each use is evaluated comprehensively and consistently
  • Develop evaluation tools that enable comprehensive, consistent cumulative impact comparisons (wouldn’t it be nice to have a standard look up table)
  • Ensure the affected environment is characterized fully (physical, chemical, biological, natural resources, socioeconomic, etc.)
  • A good database and GIS layers provide a good starting point for ocean planning (spatial resolution of data is frequently inadequate)
  • Information on many biological, natural resource, physical/ geophysical characteristics and potential uses are frequently incomplete
    • Expect to fund research, assessment and monitoring studies to fill data gaps!
an ongoing application
An ongoing application

The Rhode Island Ocean SAMP: Creating Use Zones through Research and Public Input

  • The Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan, is working to define use zones for Rhode Island’s ocean waters through a research and planning process that integrates the best available science with open public input and involvement. These use zones are intended to protect or enhance current uses, including habitat and commercial and recreational uses, while providing for future uses, such as renewable energy development.
    • Research to fill holes and data gaps, better understand the system, and provide the essential scientific basis for Ocean SAMP policy development.
    • Extensive public outreach and involvement to share information about current uses of the SAMP area and to incorporate the information and concerns of the public into the policy.