PA 15-66—sHB 6839
Planning and Development Committee
AN ACT CONCERNING A LONG ISLAND SOUND BLUE PLAN AND RESOURCE AND USE INVENTORY
SUMMARY: This act requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) commissioner, within available resources, to:
1. coordinate the completion of an inventory of Long Island Sound's uses and natural resources by a UConn subcommittee (i. e. , the “Long Island Sound Resource and Use Inventory”) and
2. develop a plan to preserve and protect the Sound that may include maps, illustrations, and other media (i. e. , the “Long Island Sound Blue Plan”).
The commissioner must do these things in conjunction with a 16-member Long Island Sound Resource and Use Inventory and Blue Plan Advisory Committee, which the act creates.
The act establishes a process for developing the inventory and plan, including provisions for public input. The draft inventory and plan must be completed by March 1, 2019, and the public must have at least 90 days for review and comment. The commissioner must adopt a final draft plan within 90 days after the public comment period ends. Once final, the plan must be (1) reviewed by the Environment Committee and (2) submitted to the General Assembly for approval before it can take effect. The act requires the inventory and plan to be reviewed and updated every five years.
Under the act, the plan's policies, locations, or standards must apply in a spatial planning area as depicted on a map the advisory committee prepares. DEEP and other state or local agencies must consider the plan when reviewing applications to conduct certain coastal activities.
EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015
LONG ISLAND SOUND RESOURCE AND USE INVENTORY
Under the act, the inventory must be completed by a Long Island Sound Inventory and Science subcommittee convened by UConn. It must comprise the best available information and data on the Sound's natural resources and uses, including all of its:
1. plants, animals, and habitats;
2. ecologically significant areas in nearshore and offshore waters and their substrates (i. e. , surfaces where organisms grow);
3. uses of the waters and substrates, such as (a) boating and fishing; (b) waterfowl hunting; (c) shellfish beds; (d) aquaculture and energy facilities; (e) shipping corridors; and (f) electric power line, gas pipeline, and telecommunications crossings; and
4. updates and additions to the comprehensive environmental assessment and plan on Long Island Sound crossings (such as pipelines).
LONG ISLAND SOUND BLUE PLAN
The act requires the plan to:
1. establish the state's goals, siting priorities, and standards for effective stewardship of the Sound's waters held in trust for public benefit;
2. promote science-based management practices that consider existing natural, social, cultural, historic, and economic characteristics of planning areas within the Sound;
3. preserve and protect traditional riparian and water-dependent uses and activities;
4. promote maximum public access to the Sound's waters for traditional public trust uses, such as boating and fishing, unless restricting access is (a) a national security interest or (b) necessary to protect coastal resources or preserve public health, safety, and welfare;
5. reflect the Sound's importance to state residents who make a living from boating or fishing or enjoy recreational boating or fishing;
6. analyze the implications of existing and potential uses and users of the Sound, focusing on avoiding conflicts;
7. reflect the value of biodiversity and ecosystem health with regard to ecosystem interdependence;
8. identify and protect special, sensitive, or unique estuarine and marine life and habitats, such as scenic and visual resources;
9. adapt to evolving knowledge and understanding of the marine environment, including climate change and sea level rise adaptation;
10. foster sustainable uses that capitalize on economic opportunity without significant detriment to the Sound's ecology or natural beauty;
11. support infrastructure needed to sustain the state's economy and quality of life;
12. identify appropriate locations and performance standards for activities, uses, and facilities regulated under state permit programs, such as measures to guide siting uses in ways consistent with the plan; and
13. reflect the importance of planning for the Sound as an estuary that crosses state boundaries, including identifying potential measures that encourage the planning.
Under the act, the plan must be consistent with the inventory described above and provide for ongoing acquisition and application of up-to-date resource and use data, including seafloor mapping. It must also be consistent with the State's Plan of Conservation and Development and the goals and policies in the state's Coastal Management Act.
The act requires the plan to be developed by a transparent and inclusive process that seeks widespread public and stakeholder participation and encourages public input in decision making. The plan must be coordinated, developed, and implemented with New York, to the greatest extent feasible. It must also be coordinated, to the greatest extent feasible, with local, regional, and federal planning entities and agencies that include the (1) Connecticut-New York Bi-State Marine Spatial Planning Working Group, (2) Long Island Sound Study, and (3) National Ocean Policy's Northeast Regional Planning Body (see BACKGROUND).
Areas Subject to the Plan
Waters and Submerged Lands. The waters and submerged lands subject to the commissioner's planning, management, and coordination authority under the plan include Long Island Sound and its bays and inlets, from the mean high water line to the state's waterward boundaries with New York and Rhode Island. The act specifies that the high water line is defined by the most recent data of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Spatial Planning Area. The act requires the advisory committee (see below) to prepare a map showing a spatial planning area where the plan's siting policies, location identifications, or performance standards for activities, uses, and facilities must apply.
The act specifies that the spatial planning area is located seaward of the bathymetric contour (line of underwater depth) of minus ten feet North American Vertical Datum to the state's waterward boundaries with New York and Rhode Island. But it does not extend into (1) any river that flows into the Sound beyond the first motor vehicle or railroad bridge crossing the river or (2) an area along the river that the economic and community development (DECD) commissioner approves as an enterprise zone, which, under the act, must be known as a defense plant zone.
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT AND COMMENTS
Developing the Draft Inventory and Plan
To help the commissioner develop the inventory and plan, the act requires the advisory committee to hold at least three public hearings in different coastal municipalities to receive public comments and submissions. The act requires that one hearing each be held (1) east of the Connecticut River, (2) west of the Housatonic River, and (3) between the Connecticut and Housatonic rivers. It allows the committee to provide other public outreach and input measures to assure stakeholder engagement and representation.
While helping to complete the draft inventory and plan, prior to its availability for public comment, the committee must consult with the DECD commissioner and representatives from:
1. the telecommunications industry,
2. waterfront businesses,
3. the state's two federally recognized Indian tribes, and
4. the tourism or recreation industry.
To the extent feasible, the committee also must consult with applicable New York state agencies, advisory counterparts, and the Connecticut-New York Bi-State Marine Spatial Planning Working Group to create a mutually agreeable process to develop the inventory and plan.
After Draft Completion
Once the draft inventory and plan are completed, the act requires the DEEP commissioner to make them available for public review and comment for at least 90 days. He must post them, and the notice of public comment period, on DEEP's and the Office of Policy and Management's (OPM) websites. Notice must also be published in the Environmental Monitor and the Connecticut Law Journal.
The commissioner must adopt a final draft no later than 90 days after the public comment period ends.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY REVIEW
Under the act, once a final draft of the plan is completed, the commissioner must submit it to the Environment Committee for review. The committee must hold a public hearing on the plan within 45 days after the start of the next legislative session. It must, within 45 days after this hearing, submit to the General Assembly (1) the plan and (2) its recommendation for approval or disapproval.
The plan takes effect when it is approved by a majority vote of each chamber. If the legislature disapproves it, in whole or part, it is deemed rejected and must be returned to the advisory committee for revision.
The act requires revisions to the inventory and plan to be submitted to the Environment Committee and approved by the General Assembly, following the same procedure as described above. The DEEP commissioner is responsible for reviewing and updating the inventory and plan at least once every five years.
PUBLIC OUTREACH PROGRAM
The act requires the DEEP commissioner to develop and implement a public outreach and information program to inform the public about the plan. It also requires the advisory committee to hold at least one public hearing each year to receive public comments and submissions on the inventory and plan. The program and hearing must be accomplished within available resources.
USE OF THE INVENTORY AND PLAN
Under the act, once the inventory and plan are approved as described, the plan must be considered when reviewing applications for:
1. aquaculture operations permits or producer licenses and seaweed planting and cultivation licenses;
2. shellfish grounds leases and licenses;
3. certificates of environmental compatibility and public need from the Connecticut Siting Council;
4. emergency or temporary authorizations for certain regulated activities to prevent loss of life, health, wealth, or property;
5. electric power line, gas pipeline, or telecommunications crossings of Long Island Sound;
6. dredging; erecting structures; placing fill, obstructions, or encroachments; or conducting work related to these activities in tidal, coastal, or navigable waters waterward of the coastal jurisdiction line;
7. coastal structure maintenance and other activities eligible for a certificate of permission from DEEP;
8. discharging water, substances, or materials into state waters; or
9. a state water quality certification pursuant to federal law.
The act allows the plan to be used for guidance in pre-application discussions between applicants and the DEEP commissioner.
It also requires the commissioner to seek federal approval needed to incorporate the plan as an enforceable policy in the state's coastal management program under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.
Under the act, the advisory committee consists of 16 members. It includes (1) the DEEP, transportation, and agriculture commissioners, or their designees; (2) the OPM secretary, or his designee; (3) one Connecticut Siting Council representative; and (4) 11 appointed members, as Table 1 shows.
Table 1: Advisory Committee Appointees
A faculty member from UConn's marine sciences programs
A representative of the gas and electric distribution industries
A representative of the shellfish industry or an organization familiar with commercial or recreational aquaculture
A representative of a nonprofit conservation organization with expertise in marine assessments and planning
A representative of coastal municipalities
Senate president pro tempore
A representative of a conservation organization that specializes in coastal issues
Senate majority leader
A representative of the commercial boating or shipping industries
Senate minority leader
A representative of the marine trades industry
A representative of the commercial finfish industry
House majority leader
A representative of coastal municipalities
House minority leader
A representative of the recreational fishing and hunting community
Under the act, the DEEP commissioner serves as the committee's chairperson and must convene the first meeting by August 30, 2015 (i. e. , 60 days after the act's effective date). The act allows him to ask committee members to help with administrative functions, such as convening and noticing meetings and drafting assessments and reports.
The act places the committee in DEEP for administrative purposes only. Thus, it makes DEEP responsible for, among other things, providing administrative and clerical functions for the committee to the extent the DEEP commissioner considers necessary.
In addition to helping the DEEP commissioner develop the draft inventory and plan, the act requires the committee to advise the commissioner on operating, implementing, and updating the inventory and plan within six months after the General Assembly's approval. It must also meet quarterly to review the plan's implementation, identify emerging issues, and recommend any needed or desired changes to the plan.
Long Island Sound Study
In 1985, in an effort to better protect Long Island Sound, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Connecticut, and New York formed the Long Island Sound Study, a partnership of federal and state agencies, user groups, organizations, and individuals seeking to restore and protect the Sound.
National Ocean Policy's Northeast Regional Planning Body
Formed by a presidential Executive Order in 2010, the National Ocean Policy encourages a science-based spatial planning process to analyze current and future uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas. The approach is executed through regional planning bodies. Members of the Northeast Regional Planning Body include federal, tribal, state, and New England Fishery Management Council representatives.
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