Oregon Shores Seeks to Bolster Coastal Management through NOAA Comments

Condos at Cape Kiwanda--we have questions about coastal management.  Photo by Sonja Peterson.
Condos at Cape Kiwanda--we have questions about coastal management. Photo by Sonja Peterson.

Thanks to the Coastal Zone Management Act, states potentially have a great deal of control over their own coastal destinies.  Under the CZMA, if a state’s coastal policies are accepted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal government is subsequently bound to coordinate its policies with those adopted by the state.  This goes by the wonky name of “federal consistency,” but it is an important tool for states seeking to exercise strong protection for their coastal resources.

Periodically, NOAA reviews state coastal management plans.  Oregon’s Coastal Management Program (CMP), a section of the Department of Land Conservation and Development, is currently going through such a “312 Evaluation.”  The public has been invited to comment, and Oregon Shores seized on the opportunity to deliver detailed testimony.

There is much of value that the CMP contributes, and our remarks fully acknowledge this.  Among other things, the CMP helped to navigate an update of the state’s Territorial Sea Plan, to accommodate the needs of wave energy development while protecting key habitats.  It has developed important planning tools, and sponsored research that has added important information to the Oregon Coastal Atlas.

However, we also argue strongly that the state must do more to plan for tsunamis and other natural hazards; mandate adaptive planning for climate change; and address the threat that shoreline armoring (such as riprap) would irrevocably alter the shoreline and limit public access if it is allowed to spread without meaningful restrictions, as is currently the case due to lack of enforcement of existing regulations and to current laws that fail to take into account sea level rise and the need for beaches to retreat if they are not to disappear. We are specifically critical that Oregon’s current coastal regulations don’t clearly prevent the folly of developing highly dangerous LNG facilities on unstable sand spits.

Oregon Shores recommended that NOAA present the CMP with “needed actions” that will push Oregon toward more ambitious policies to preserve the shoreline.  In context, though, these would be improvements to what is already a valuable program.