OPAC’s December Meeting Scheduled for Tillamook
Robin Hartmann, Oregon Shores’ Ocean Policy Advocate, has been a member of OPAC since 2005, representing not only our organization but all coastal environmental groups in that designated seat on the panel. In that role, she has participated in the arduous decision-making processes that established Oregon’s system of marine reserves as well as the state’s Territorial Sea Plan (TSP) update to prepare Oregon for renewable ocean energy development.
Robin invites Oregon Shores members or other citizens concerned about ocean-related issues to contact her with suggestions for OPAC’s agenda.
Oregon’s governor and state legislators look to OPAC for recommendations on how to manage and protect Oregon’s ocean. The council is made up of 14 voting “stakeholder” representatives who have been appointed to duke out their differences and seek consensus on the best approaches for managing Oregon’s marine resources. Their advice is based on the interests they represent and where they can find agreement with others around the table. The heads of agencies with responsibilities for managing and protecting Oregon’s nearshore ocean also serve as non-voting members of OPAC, and the Council also relies on the expert advice of its Science and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC).
Under statute, OPAC is required to meet at least twice a year. The meetings provide an opportunity to learn from the agencies authorized to implement Oregon’s and the nation’s ocean policies as well as leading scientists who are engaged with studying the ocean environment, including the effects that a changing climate is having on our nearshore waters as well as on the larger California Current ecosystem spanning the West Coast.
OPAC’s first 2015 meeting was held in Bandon May 7-8. On that occasion, OPAC provided a public forum on the National Marine Sanctuary nomination process, which had recently been revised and opened for public nominations of sites. The meeting opened with a panel of experts, many of whom had direct experience and knowledge to share about implementation of sanctuaries in California and Washington waters. Following a public comment period, OPAC members deliberated on what they had heard and shared their views. The Council also heard from several of Oregon’s esteemed scientist, who each serve on the West Coast Ocean Acidification & Hypoxia Science Panel, about the impacts that a changing climate is currently having on ocean chemistry and marine life and how those effects are anticipated to increase in coming years. Following the day’s sobering presentations, the council found consensus around a simply worded recommendation to the effect that problems exist in Oregon’s ocean but, at this time, a National Marine Sanctuary was not recommended to address those problems. The Council provided its advice in a letter to the Governor.
“The evidence that our Oregon scientists –trusted experts and colleagues from Oregon State University – have presented to OPAC about the impacts that a changing climate is having on ocean conditions and marine life is so straightforward and compelling,” Robin says. “I’ve watched expressions change on the faces of our coastal leaders as it really sinks in. Though we didn’t recommend a sanctuary, there was agreement that we are facing some large problems that will require changes in management and protection in the pretty near future.”
If you have questions about OPAC, or thoughts on possible OPAC agenda items, please contact Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 817-2275.