The public will have an opportunity on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 8, to hear an update and to comment on a regional ocean planning process that involves Maine and the other New England states.

The Northeast Regional Planning Body is halfway through development of a regional plan to address ocean management challenges and advance economic development and conservation objectives.

The meeting, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Hutchinson Center, will include a progress report on Northeast RPB goals and will solicit feedback from the audience on its work to date.

Formed as a result of the 2010 National Ocean Policy, the Northeast RPB is developing an ocean plan for New England. Nine regional RPBs are charged with formulating plans to better manage the nation’s oceans and coasts. New England was the first region to respond to this call, launching the Northeast RPB in 2012.

The planning group includes representatives from the six New England states, 10 federally recognized tribes, 10 federal agencies, and the New England Fishery Management Council. Canada, through its Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the state of New York are represented by ex officio members.

Kathleen Leyden, director of the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's Maine Coastal Program, and Meredith Mendelson, deputy commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, are Maine’s representatives on the Northeast RPB.

Facilitated by the Consensus Building Institute, the Oct. 8 meeting will include members of the Maine Ocean Advisors Group, a Maine-based stakeholder group that provides guidance for the state’s participation in the Northeast RPB. The Ocean Advisors consist of more than 30 representatives of such sectors as commercial and recreational fisheries, marine transportation, recreational users, environmental and watershed groups, scientists and municipalities.

The Northeast RPB has no authority to create new regulations. The planning group aims to increase the efficiency of and improve public participation in government decision-making, enhance existing programs for healthy ecosystems, and help improve compatibility of future ocean development with past and current ocean activities.

Special emphasis is being placed on improving ocean and coastal data and information available to government and the public. There will continue to be many opportunities for public participation throughout the planning process.

To date, the group has laid preliminary groundwork for the plan by engaging industry, environmental groups and members of the public, conducting mapping and data analysis, and creating a regional internet data portal.

Projects under way include commercial and recreational fishing mapping, characterization of natural resources, and a regional economic assessment of coastal and ocean sectors such as shipping and aquaculture.

For more information on the meeting, contact Meredith Mendelson at 624-6553 or Kathleen Leyden at 287-3144.

Meeting materials and additional background information can be found at: neoceanplanning.org/news/fall-2014-public-meeting-series/