DEEP: LIS Blue Plan FAQs

Blue Plan Frequently Asked Questions
   
 
These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have been complied to provide some background and basic information about the Long Island Sound Blue Plan.  These FAQs answer the most common questions raised by stakeholders and the general public at Blue Plan Advisory Committee meetings, public outreach events, webinars, and through the Online Comment Form and the DEEP.BluePlanLIS@ct.gov email address.   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

What the Blue Plan Is and Isn’t
 
In short: The Blue Plan is a marine spatial planning process for Long Island Sound.  To fully understand what the Blue Plan is, it is first important to understand the concept of marine spatial planning.
 
At its core, marine spatial planning is a science-based tool used to promote both economic development and environmental conservation.  The goals of any marine spatial planning process are to account for and coordinate the activities of all coastal and ocean interests, for the sake of decreasing user conflict; engage the communities and stakeholders affected by these coastal and ocean interests; and preserve critical ecosystem functions and services.
 
The intent of the Blue Plan, as a marine spatial planning process for Long Island Sound, is to plan and account for both the existing human uses of the Sound and the habitats and natural features needed for marine life to thrive in the Sound.  Doing so will help ensure that: (a) the existing human uses and the habitats and natural features of the Sound are protected and (b) any new and existing uses of the Sound will be compatible with each other and with the Sound’s habitats and natural features.  This concept is clearly stated in the Vision Statement for the Blue Plan: “Long Island Sound: a place where human uses and thriving marine life are compatible.”
 
The process by which the Blue Plan is to accomplish the above is outlined in Connecticut Public Act 15-66 (“PA 15-66” or “Blue Plan legislation”).  The Blue Plan legislation, which went into effect on July 1, 2015, calls for (among other things):
  • The drafting of a comprehensive Long Island Sound Resource and Use Inventory (“Inventory”) that uses the best available information and data to describe the natural resources within the Sound and the human uses of the Sound. This Inventory will serve as a basis for the Plan. 
  • The development of a Long Island Sound Blue Plan that:
    • establishes the state’s goals, priorities, and standards for stewarding the Sound;
    • promotes science-based management practices that take into account the Sound’s natural, social, cultural, historic, and economic characteristics;
    • preserves and protects traditional, existing water-dependent uses; and
    • analyzes the implications of existing and potential uses and users of the Sound, with a focus on avoiding potential use conflicts (i.e., compatibility).
The focus of the Blue Plan is on the question of where uses occur, including above, on, or under the water surface from the 10’ depth contour waterward.  The Plan may include maps, illustrations, and media.  When completed, the Plan should protect ecosystems, habitats, scenic resources, traditional water-dependent uses, recreation, commerce, and more while allowing for new, sustainable, and compatible uses.

More specifically, the plan will identify locations, performance standards, and siting measures for activities, uses, and facilities already regulated under existing state programs.  The Blue Plan will not create new regulations. Rather, the Blue Plan will be implemented as part of the existing State decision-making process such as Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) permitting programs and Connecticut Siting Council actions.

As such, the Blue Plan is designed to complement, but not to duplicate, existing efforts and programs such as the Long Island Sound Study, watershed management, fisheries regulation, land-side coastal management, municipal land use and harbor management, and the proposed Long Island Sound National Estuarine Research Reserve
 
Finally, it should be said that the Blue Plan is not an overarching umbrella program that will address every topic and issue associated with Long Island Sound.  As such, the Blue Plan will not deal directly with water quality issues, such as hypoxia, nitrogen levels, or combined sewer overflows; nor will it affect shoreline and coastal development issues, such as public access or adaptation to sea level rise.  The Blue Plan will also not cover the entire Sound ecosystem or watershed.  ^Top
 
Blue Plan Basics
 
Why do we need a Blue Plan?
 
While Connecticut has other plans and programs that address Long Island Sound issues, such as water quality and coastal development, there is currently no way to comprehensively evaluate resource and use conflicts or to accommodate potential new uses.  State agencies such as CT DEEP must evaluate each project proposal on a case-by-case basis without considering cumulative impacts or what is best for the Sound as a whole.  The Blue Plan, which will be based on a comprehensive Inventory of the Sound’s natural resources and uses, will apply a marine spatial planning approach to managing Long Island Sound in the face of future challenges and use conflicts.  ^Top 
 
Who oversees the development of the Blue Plan?
 
The Blue Plan legislation establishes an Advisory Committee that is tasked with assisting the Commissioner of CT DEEP with drafting the Inventory and the Blue Plan.  ^Top

How was the Advisory Committee established?
 
The Advisory Committee and its composition were established by statute, in Section 1(a) of PA 15-66.   The Governor and legislative leaders appointed various members of the Advisory Committee.  State agency Commissioners were also designated.  ^Top
 
Why was the 10’ depth selected as the limit of jurisdiction?
 
The 10’ depth criterion was specified in the legislation so as to ensure that Blue Plan policies would not conflict with or duplicate nearshore planning efforts, such as municipal coastal management and harbor management.  ^Top

Will Long Island Sound’s embayments be included in the Blue Plan?  If so, how far up the rivers will the Plan go?  What about New York?
 
All the waters of Long Island Sound and its tributaries, in both Connecticut and New York, are to be represented in the resource and use data collected for the Inventory.  However, Blue Plan policies will only apply in Connecticut waterward of the -10’ depth contour (based on the North American Vertical Datum), and in tributaries and embayments up to the first road or railroad bridge.  The extent to which Blue Plan policies will be applied by New York agencies in New York waters is a subject of ongoing discussions.  ^Top

Without a new dedicated funding source, how can the Plan be accomplished?
 
CT DEEP, which is charged with overall responsibility for developing the Blue Plan, obtained no additional funding to carry out such development.  Unlike other states that have undertaken marine spatial planning, CT DEEP does not have the resources to conduct new research for the Blue Plan and will work with existing Long Island Sound data, which is considerable.  However, several of our partners, such as The Nature Conservancy and Connecticut Sea Grant, have been able to secure grant funding for contracted assistance.  Moreover, CT DEEP was awarded a NOAA Coastal Management Fellow to work on the Blue Plan.  ^Top 

Will the Blue Plan establish protected areas?
 
The Blue Plan legislation requires the Resources and Use Inventory to designate “Ecologically Significant Areas” (ESAs) that could be considered for protection from new proposed uses that would be harmful to these areas.  Evaluation of these areas is currently underway.  Identification of ESAs is intended to help provide guidance and direction regarding future proposed uses, not to establish new prohibitions on existing uses. The Blue Plan seeks to protect existing uses.  ^Top
 
Will the Blue Plan encourage the expansion of recreational and commercial uses without protecting critical habitats?
 
The Blue Plan will strive to promote recreational and commercial uses in appropriate locations, while at the same time protecting critical habitats.  In fact, the Blue Plan legislation requires the designation of “ecologically significant areas,” which Plan policies will highlight for protection.  ^Top

Will the Blue Plan “zone” the waters of Long Island Sound for specific uses?
 
The Plan may identify priority use areas and areas where certain impacts to resources and/or existing human uses must be avoided – all in association with new proposed uses. However, the Blue Plan will not “zone” the Sound in a way that its entire surface area is divided into zones where only specified uses are allowed or not allowed.  As has been the case in other states, CT DEEP expects that the majority of the Sound will remain available for multiple new uses with existing uses remaining available as they are today.  ^Top

Is the Blue Plan setting the stage for a bridge across Long Island Sound?
 
No one in the Connecticut General Assembly or in CT DEEP is currently contemplating a cross-Sound bridge.  However, CT DEEP is aware that the concept of a cross-Sound bridge has been discussed by others, and the Blue Plan will provide a framework for deciding whether there should be a bridge (and if so, where it should be located).  ^Top

Is the Blue Plan being developed because of proposed wind farms in Long Island Sound?
 
Unlike neighboring states, no wind farm proposals have prompted Connecticut’s marine spatial planning effort, and CT DEEP is unaware of any such proposals within Long Island Sound proper.  Compared to open ocean areas, Long Island Sound is considered to have relatively poor wind resources, which actually gives Connecticut the opportunity to prepare for any wind proposals that may arise in the future, should technology and markets change.  ^Top

There is a lot of dumping and discharging into Long Island Sound—will the Blue Plan address water quality in the Sound? 
 
The Blue Plan will not affect existing water quality regulations and programs.  ^Top
 
How long will the Blue Plan be in effect?
 
Indefinitely, although both the Inventory and the Blue Plan are required to be reviewed and updated at least once every five years.  ^Top

Coordination
 
Will New York participate in the Blue Plan planning process?

Yes.  The Blue Plan legislation requires us to coordinate with the State of New York to the maximum extent possible, and the New York Departments of State (NY DOS, which houses New York’s coastal management program) and Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) have accepted DEEP Commissioner Klee’s invitation to participate in the Blue Plan process.  NY DOS has contributed to the Blue Plan through its Geographic Information Gateway – designing and building this significant data portal to incorporate Long Island Sound data and maps that can serve the Blue Plan along with other potential uses.  NY DEC staff members have been working actively with the Blue Plan Subcommittees and Work Teams in developing the Inventory and Plan.  ^Top
 
How is the Inventory and Blue Plan development process carried out on a day-to-day basis?  Who all is involved?
 
As previously mentioned, the Blue Plan legislation established an Advisory Committee that is tasked with assisting the Commissioner of CT DEEP with drafting the Inventory and the Blue Plan.  The Blue Plan legislation also establishes a Long Island Sound Inventory and Science Subcommittee, convened by the University of Connecticut and falling under the Advisory Committee, to put together the Inventory.  Furthermore, CT DEEP is charged with the overall responsibility for developing the Blue Plan, providing the necessary coordination and support. 

The Advisory Committee has opted to convene additional Subcommittees and Work Teams to address specific needs in the Inventory and Blue Plan development process, including a Stakeholder Engagement Subcommittee; a Policy Subcommittee; and Work Teams dedicated to Ecological Characterization, Data and Mapping, and Human Use Characterization.  These Subcommittees and Work Teams consist of Advisory Committee members, CT DEEP staff, NY DOS and NY DEC staff, and other Long Island Sound technical experts and stakeholders interested in committing time and effort to regular meetings and input.  The Advisory Committee may opt to establish additional subcommittees and work teams, including ad hoc teams, in the future.  ^Top

How will stakeholder feedback be shared with the people responsible for writing the Blue Plan, and how will it be incorporated into the Plan?
 
There are a variety of methods that stakeholders can use to provide feedback, such as commenting at public events or Advisory Committee meetings, emailing a comment to DEEP.BluePlanLIS@ct.gov, commenting via the Online Comment Form, etc. These comments are reviewed by the Advisory Committee and others working on Blue Plan development. The Stakeholder Engagement work team considers the comments and may incorporate that idea/thought into the Plan, explain why the comment/issue wasn’t included in the plan, and provide feedback as addressed here in these FAQ’s.  ^Top

What is the process to make sure the Blue Plan isn’t limited to engaging a small group of special interests?
 
The Blue Plan partners are committed to engaging all stakeholders, to that end a Stakeholder Engagement Program (SEP) has been developed, which highlights the importance of engaging additional sectors that may not be specifically identified in the Blue Plan statute but that do have a clear interest in Plan development.  Under the SEP, stakeholders and the general public have a number of options for sharing information and input.  In addition to submitting email comments or attending Advisory Committee meetings, public events, and official hearings, members of the public will be able to review data products and policy options when these are developed.  Currently, the data components of the LIS Inventory are being reviewed by ecological experts and human use stakeholders for accuracy, representativeness, and relevance.  ^Top

Will the Blue Plan deal with combined storm sewers that drain into LIS from NY towns that are on the Sound?
 
Combined sewer overflows are not part of the Blue Plan process.  ^Top
 
Will NOAA be involved in the planning process?
 
While the Blue Plan is a state-level effort, NOAA and regional ocean planning groups are being kept apprised of our progress.  Once the Plan becomes final, it will be submitted to NOAA for incorporation into Connecticut’s federally approved coastal management program.  ^Top

Will Connecticut coordinate with Massachusetts and Rhode Island to learn from their marine spatial planning efforts?
 
The Blue Plan will use the Rhode Island and Massachusetts plans as references to understand how marine spatial planning has progressed in the Northeast. However, the Blue Plan engages Connecticut and New York stakeholders and entities to ensure that plan development will be based on Connecticut/New York/Long Island Sound specific interests.  ^Top
 
Rhode Island and Massachusetts have developed their own ocean plans but a lot of their metrics don’t apply to Long Island Sound—how do we make sure the Blue Plan doesn’t just copy plans from neighboring states?
 
The Blue Plan will look to the Massachusetts and Rhode Island marine spatial plans for examples and inspiration, and we all share sources of regional ocean data, but Long Island Sound is a different environment than those states’ waters.  As a result, the Blue Plan cannot just copy the neighboring plans.  ^Top
 
Is the Blue Plan interfacing with the Connecticut Port Authority?
 
Yes.  The Connecticut Port Authority, having succeeded to the Department of Transportation’s maritime responsibilities, is represented on the Blue Plan Advisory Committee.  ^Top

Are the Native American tribes in Connecticut and New York being engaged in developing the Blue Plan?
 
Native American tribes are among the key stakeholders whose input will be sought in developing the Long Island Sound Inventory and Blue Plan.  ^Top
 
Will the Blue Plan be coordinated with local municipal coastal programs and harbor management plans?
 
Yes.  By statute, the Blue Plan policies must be consistent with Connecticut’s Coastal Management Act, and local Harbor Management Commissions are key stakeholders whose input will be sought in developing the Long Island Sound Inventory and Blue Plan. In addition, two of the Advisory Committee members represent coastal municipalities. However, Blue Plan policies were specific by statute to apply to offshore areas, so as not to overlap with local municipal coastal programs and harbor management planning areas.  ^Top

Will students and school systems be engaged in this process?
 
The Blue Plan partners have already engaged with interns and volunteers at the college and graduate school level, and elementary and secondary school students are welcome to provide input and assistance as appropriate.  High schools, colleges, and universities have been specifically identified as important stakeholders for outreach, as well as aquariums and museums that can assist with reaching out to school groups.  The Stakeholder Engagement Subcommittee envisions active communication with all of these groups.  ^Top

Will the Long Island Sound Assemblies be engaged in the Blue Plan planning process?
 
The Blue Plan statute does not assign a specific role for the Long Island Sound Assemblies as such, but several members of the Assemblies are engaged in the Blue Plan process, including one member of the Advisory Committee.  ^Top

Will independent shellfishermen and commercial fishermen be included in the Blue Plan, and not just the larger fishing companies?
 
Yes.  Both independent shellfishers and commercial fishers are important stakeholders and have been actively involved in providing insight and input into the Inventory and Blue Plan.  ^Top

Blue Plan Process
 
Will the Blue Plan inventory look at resources systemically?
 
Yes, there is a specific methodology to assess ecological and human use data in support of the Long Island Sound Inventory. Resources are separated into several categories. For example, the Human Use dataset is separated into categories like Marine Transportation and Navigation, Recreation and Tourism, Fish and Shellfish Resources, etc. Data in those fields then underwent a “rapid readiness assessment” to understand their quality and relevance to the Blue Plan. As of the drafting of these FAQs, draft data products are being presented to sector experts to further understand their accuracy, representativeness, and relevance. If gaps are identified, they will be filled to the best ability of the Blue Plan team. Final data products will inform the Long Island Sound Inventory and Blue Plan development.  ^Top

How will data and information be collected and analyzed? 
 
The Blue Plan Inventory and Science Subcommittee is in the process of compiling and analyzing the universe of datasets relevant to Long Island Sound and is screening them for usefulness and to create data products for the Inventory.  Particular focus is being paid to spatially represented datasets, which are being reviewed by experts and stakeholders in a series of webinars^Top

Will Blue Plan data be available to the public in an easily accessible and understandable format on a website or data portal?
 
CT DEEP is working to host the Blue Plan’s data products online.  Many Long Island Sound-related datasets are already accessible on the New York Department of State’s Geographic Information Gateway data portal and in other publicly available data portals, such as the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal, UConn’s Aquaculture Mapping Atlas, and BOEM/NOAA’s Marine Cadastre.  Long Island Sound data is also being drawn from The Nature Conservancy’s Long Island Sound Ecological Assessment, whose data is also publicly available.

Information on the availability of data products, as well as information about other Blue Plan events and developments, will be updated through the Long Island Sound Blue Plan listserv, the Blue Plan website (www.ct.gov/deep/lisblueplan), and CT DEEP’s Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/CTDEEP).  ^Top
 
Is biodiversity being considered in development of the Blue Plan?
 
According to the Blue Plan statute, the plan shall “reflect the value of biodiversity and ecosystem health in regards to the interdependence of ecosystems.” The consideration of biodiversity may be particularly important when establishing a criteria for defining Ecologically Significant Areas.  ^Top

What kind of geochemical analysis is being conducted for the Blue Plan?
 
Because the Inventory and the Blue Plan are to be developed under existing resources, the CT DEEP does not have the resources to conduct new research for the Blue Plan.  However, existing geochemical data can be analyzed, as appropriate.  ^Top

Is the Blue Plan incorporating the physical aspects of coastal environments and taking coastal processes into account?
 
Yes.  Several of the datasets being incorporated into the Inventory deal with the physical oceanography of the Sound.  ^Top
 
Will historic and cultural resources be considered in the planning process?
 
Yes.  For example, the locations of known shipwrecks will be compiled in the Inventory.  ^Top

Will the Blue Plan address issues such as alternative energy (e.g., wind power, tidal power, wave power), hydraulic fracking and other fossil fuel exploration, algae farming, and trash/plastic pollution?
 
Yes, the Blue Plan will address any proposed off-shore energy generation activities, as well as algae farming and other aquaculture, within Long Island Sound. Issues related to marine debris and trash pollution are the subject of other programs and not directly addressed by the Blue Plan.  ^Top
 
Is emergency response being addressed in the Blue Plan?
 
The Blue Plan is not intended to guide emergency response, but its information and policies may be useful for emergency planners.  ^Top
 
Will the Blue Plan be updated?
 
Yes.  CT DEEP is required to review and update the Inventory and the Blue Plan at least once every five years, with the ongoing assistance of the Advisory Committee.   The Committee is required to meet quarterly after the adoption of the Plan, hold a public hearing every year, and recommend revisions to the Inventory and the Plan.  ^Top
 
Are the tenets of the Connecticut Coastal Management Act being applied in the Blue Plan planning process?
 
Yes.  The statute requires the Blue Plan incorporate Coastal Management Act policies, as applicable.  Note, however, that many of these policies actually apply to upland coastal areas.  ^Top
 
Climate Change
 
Will impacts associated with climate change be considered in developing the Blue Plan?
 
Yes.  Climate change, including shifts in species composition and abundance of and changes in habitats, will be considered.  ^Top
 
Will Sea Level Rise adjust the 10’ depth as the basis for the Blue Plan planning boundary?
 
There is no mechanism for automatically adjusting the 10’ boundary, but that may well become a subject of analysis in future Blue Plan revisions.  ^Top
 
Is the Paris Climate Change Agreement being considered in the Blue Plan planning process?
 
Not as such, since the Blue Plan does not deal with greenhouse gas emissions.  ^Top
 
Outcomes
 
How will you ensure that there will be no new regulations coming about as a result of the Blue Plan?
 
The Blue Plan legislation contains no authority to create new regulations or permit programs. Any in-water activities that currently require permits or regulatory compliance will continue to require the same authorization after the Plan comes into effect, and activities that are not now regulated will not become regulated in the future without separate legislation.  Nonetheless, the Blue Plan is intended to guide existing regulatory programs from a Sound-wide spatial perspective and is expected to be incorporated into Connecticut’s federally approved Coastal Zone Management Program.  ^Top
 
Will the Blue Plan establish “no take” areas or change where I can go fishing?
 
No.  The Blue Plan does not regulate fisheries and the intent of the Blue Plan is to protect existing traditional uses such as fishing – including areas where fishing exists today.  Fisheries regulatory agencies might refer to information compiled for the Blue Plan in the normal course of their activities, but in many cases these agencies are themselves the source of the information.  ^Top
 
Will the Blue Plan protect access to fishing resources?
 
It is expected that the Plan will help identify, protect, and maintain fisheries resources and access to those resources.  ^Top
 
Will the Blue Plan affect upland development?
 
No, since the Blue Plan applies to in-water, offshore areas of the Sound. Existing state coastal management and municipal land use programs deal with upland development.  ^Top
 
Will the Blue Plan address development of Plum Island?
 
The Blue Plan will not apply to the land development of Plum Island.  ^Top
 
Will the Blue Plan increase commercial activity in the Sound?
 
According to the Blue Plan statute, the plan shall “promote maximum accessibility to Long Island Sound’s waters for traditional public trust uses, such as recreational and commercial boating and fishing, except when necessary to protect coastal resources, preserve public health, safety and welfare, or when it is in the interest of national security.” The Blue Plan will not directly increase commercial activity in the Sound, but may promote a traditional commercial human use where there is the least conflict with other uses and natural resources.  ^Top
 
How do we prevent the Blue Plan from becoming just another “dormant document”?
 
The Connecticut state agencies are committed to creating and using the Blue Plan as a guide to their actions affecting Long Island Sound.  Additionally, these agencies rely on the vigilance and interests of all citizens and stakeholders to remind them to regularly refer to the Plan.  ^Top 
 
 
 
 
Content Last Updated December 4, 2017