Long Island Sound Blue Plan Background
After several years of background work and coastal and marine spatial planning research conducted by a coalition of environmental groups, academics, and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection staff, Public Act 15-66, An Act Concerning a Long Island Sound Blue Plan and Resource and Use Inventory, signed by Governor Daniel P. Malloy on June 19, 2015, went into effect on July 1, 2015. This "Blue Plan" legislation established a process for Connecticut to develop an inventory of Long Island Sound's natural resources and uses and, ultimately, a spatial plan to guide future use of the Sound's waters and submerged lands.
Currently, Connecticut's Coastal Management Program (CMP) works to protect the State's coastal resources and guide development along the immediate coast. The Long Island Sound Blue Plan will supplement the CMP's existing authority in the deeper offshore reaches of the Sound. The Plan is intended to prioritize the protection of existing natural resources and uses such as fishing, aquaculture, and navigation from future conflicting or incompatible activities. It will help minimize conflicts between marine life and human uses of the Sound, such as navigation and aquaculture, but would not create any new regulatory restrictions.
The Blue Plan legislation required the University of Connecticut to convene a Long Island Sound Inventory and Science subcommittee to complete an inventory of Long Island Sound's natural resources and uses. This inventory is based on the best available information and data on the Sound's plants, animals, habitats, and ecologically significant areas in nearshore and offshore waters and their "substrates" (surfaces where marine organisms grow). The inventory also identifies the human uses of Long Island Sound's waters and substrates. These uses include boating and fishing, waterfowl hunting, shellfishing, aquaculture, shipping corridors, as well as energy facilities and interests including electric power lines, gas pipelines, and telecommunications crossings in the Sound. The completed resource and use inventory was used to develop the Blue Plan, a spatial plan that will help avoid user conflicts in Long Island Sound by identifying and protecting special, sensitive, and unique estuarine and marine life and habitats. The Plan will foster sustainable uses of the Sound that will make the most of economic opportunity without significantly harming the Sound's ecology or natural beauty.
The Blue Plan must be consistent with the resource and use inventory and must provide for the ongoing acquisition and application of up-to-date resource and use data, including seafloor mapping. The Plan must also be consistent with the State Plan of Conservation and Development and the goals and policies contained in Connecticut's Coastal Management Act. In accordance with the Blue Plan legislation, the Plan must be developed by a transparent and inclusive process that includes widespread public and stakeholder participation and encourages public input in decision making. Development and implementation of the Plan must also be coordinated with the State of New York, and with local, regional, and federal planning entities and agencies including (1) the Connecticut-New York Bi-State Marine Spatial Planning Working Group, (2) the Long Island Sound Study, and (3) the National Ocean Policy's Northeast Regional Planning Body.
There is no need to specify uses or "use zones" over every part of the Sound's water surface, but the Blue Plan could establish priority use areas such as utility corridors or shellfish beds where no other use could interfere with the primary use. The Plan could also identify critical areas that may need greater protection and management of uses and more intensive regulatory review. These could include important habitat areas where disturbance would not be allowed or areas important for navigation or recreation where permanent or structural occupation of the water surface or water column would not be allowed. Such priority areas would be established where needed and only where needed.
The Blue Plan will remain "fluid," adapting as necessary to our ever-evolving knowledge and understanding of the marine environment, recognizing current issues like climate change impacts and sea level rise adaptation while anticipating and addressing future emerging issues. Another significant benefit of the Blue Plan will be the identification of appropriate locations and performance standards for activities, uses, and facilities that are regulated by state permit programs, developing measures that will guide the siting of those uses in ways that are consistent with the Plan.
Want to learn more about the Blue Plan?
Take a look at the Blue Plan Vision and Goals Statement and “Blue Plan Basics” factsheets to understand the overarching views of the Blue Plan:
Explore the Frequently Asked Questions page to see common questions users of Long Island Sound have about the Blue Plan and how the Blue Plan Team can address your concerns.
Check out Blue Plan Related Links to learn more about marine spatial planning and how it has been used in the Northeast.
Want to get involved?
Join the Long Island Sound Blue Plan Listserv to receive updates on web postings, legislative review, and other information.
Content Last Updated February 4, 2020