06.18.2010 0

Obama’s Ocean and Great Lakes Policy is Clear as Mud

By Rebekah Rast –

Approximately 71 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water. That makes things a bit murky when deciding who controls the world’s waters.

The federal government has gotten its hands wet setting regulations and restrictions in certain parts of our coastlines, lakes and oceans. The various restrictions placed on fishing in some parts of the U.S. are there to make sure species are able to survive and be sustained over time.

But how far do these restrictions need to go? How far is too far?

From what is known about Obama’s Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) effort, he is headed in a direction that goes too far.

This effort includes a land, water and power grab unlike any America has seen. Obama plans to create a network of no-take marine reserves all over the world. To add to this usurping of power by the Administration, states, localities, tribes and individuals will have no say in this massive water grab — not even Congress.

While waiting for his Executive Order to come — it could come any day now — Obama has done well keeping his plans on this issue quiet and complicated.

Obama’s plan includes designating “monuments” throughout the oceans including all oceans and the Great Lakes. Countries like Britain, Canada and Australia are already on board.

Who will designate and control these “monuments” that stand in the middle of oceans or even in the U.S.? That’s the other part of the plan. Obama will appoint a body of bureaucrats to the National Ocean Council (NOC), which will have ultimate authority over these marine reserves.

In a research document explaining Obama’s Ocean and Great Lakes Policy, Richard McCarty, researcher with Americans for Limited Government (ALG), wrote, “The NOC would review and approve regional plans, resolve disputes, develop performance measures and provide national guidance.”

Under Obama’s plan, the NOC will consist of many of the same members who are in the current Administration, including Secretary of State, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Secretary of the Interior and Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), to name a few of the possibilities.

This new ocean bureaucracy would work with other appointed governances, which could possibly threaten, diminish or even override the role of states in deciding how their bodies of water are best used. This top-down federal approach has no limits and no clear cut set of rules or restrictions for the way it can and will govern.

Steve Borell, executive director of Alaska Miners Association, is very concerned about how this new effort will play out. “Our concern is there are no guidelines and no sideboards to what this Administration might do,” he says. “Their actions show a strong propensity to lockdown areas, and that should be of concern to every American.”

There are countless other problems with the Administrations CMSP effort. We do not know what the cost would be to implement such a plan. With a national debt upwards of $13 trillion, is it really wise to add to that number? Also, with 71 percent of our world being water, it should take numerous years to analyze and research areas that would benefit from some sort of protection, but Obama hopes to put his plan into practice in only five years.

Also disconcerting is the majority of the would-be governing boards have a penchant towards the environmental agenda. There would be no accountability to ensure their decisions don’t come at the expense of economic and social concerns.

Because there is no clear framework of what the governing boards can and can’t do, this effort by the Administration should have Americans worried.

Fisheries can be taken away along with recreational areas. It allows the federal government to reinterpret laws in whatever ways best suit its purposes. Without justification, Obama’s CMSP effort calls for sweeping changes, this can, and very well may, affect peoples’ livelihoods.

“This plan is nebulous,” Borell says. “You don’t know what the effect will be. When there are guidelines you know, but when there is no such thing, you don’t know what it will do.”

This is opposite of Obama’s promise when elected to the Presidency.

When welcoming his senior staff and cabinet secretaries to the White House on Jan. 21, 2009, Obama remarked, “Let me say it as simply as I can: transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

It seems what he is planning in our own backyards is an exception.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to ALG News Bureau.

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