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Review&Forecast—January 2010 Issue

Climate Adaptation Emerges as Major Theme in Sea Grant National Plan

By Dr. Leon M. Cammen
Amy Painter
Communications Leader
National Sea Grant College Program

Last year, we updated Sea Technology readers on the National Sea Grant College Program's (NSGCP) five-year national plan. In response to recommendations put forth by the National Research Council's 'Evaluation of the Sea Grant Program Review Process' report, the NSGCP developed a new evaluation system and a national plan, 'NOAA National Sea Grant College Program Strategic Plan 2009-2013: Meeting the Challenge.'

The plan capitalizes on Sea Grant's ability to mobilize universities and other partners to address challenges in four major focus areas: healthy coastal ecosystems, sustainable coastal development, a safe and sustainable seafood supply, and hazard resilience in coastal communities. In addition, climate adaptation in coastal communities has emerged as a high-priority cross-cutting theme—one that underlies each focus area and is echoed throughout many of the Sea Grant state program plans. Each focus area responds to issues of major importance to NOAA and its other coastal programs and is a topical area in which Sea Grant has made substantial contributions in the past and is poised to make significant contributions in the future.

Each state Sea Grant program has developed a strategic plan that contributes to the realization of national goals while at the same time reflecting its specific state and regional priorities. In addition, each state plan now includes measurable objectives and performance measures that track to the national focus areas and will provide the basis for evaluating the program's progress in achieving the national goals.

Focus Teams to Move Plan Forward
In order to help the NSGCP achieve the goals and objectives of the national plan in an effective, coordinated and collective manner, we established teams for each of the four national focus areas to offer guidance as the national strategies are implemented. Each team has about 12 members, drawn from the National Sea Grant Office, the National Sea Grant Advisory Board, Sea Grant directors and other networks (research, extension, education and communications), NOAA and outside experts.

The focus teams recently reviewed the state programs' annual reports and identified and synthesized Sea Grant's most prominent accomplishments for each focus area. The teams' assessment of progress in achieving the outcomes identified in the national plan will help suggest whether midcourse adjustments are needed. In addition, the teams will identify new opportunities and directions for Sea Grant national and regional initiatives; catalyze cooperative efforts among state programs, NOAA, other agencies and nongovernmental organizations; and provide a mechanism to further solidify Sea Grant's local, regional and national identity.

Pieces of the PIE
The aligned national and state program plans and the work of the focus teams are key elements as Sea Grant's new planning, implementation and evaluation (PIE) system comes fully online in 2010. But the PIE system also uses periodic assessment of Sea Grant's success in achieving its local, regional and national objectives to ensure the program remains cost effective and integral to NOAA's mission. State Sea Grant programs are evaluated every four years to assess the effectiveness of program management and organization, stakeholder engagement, and collaborative network activities and their overall impact on society. Every two years, the advisory board will review the progress of the Sea Grant network as a whole in addressing the priority areas highlighted in the national plan and produce a 'State of the Sea Grant Program' report.

Forecasting a Renewable Future
As we move forward with an ambitious new national plan, Sea Grant continues to invest in research that solves problems and offers hope for the future. This investment includes a diverse portfolio of renewable energy efforts that may yield promising results over the next few years.

Several Sea Grant programs are exploring the promise of wind energy, including pioneering work by Delaware Sea Grant in engaging coastal residents, by Rhode Island in marine spatial planning, and through symposia sponsored by Rhode Island and Maine Sea Grant.

Michigan Sea Grant is helping communities understand the possible benefits and consequences of wind energy development by examining its environmental, social, economic, aesthetic and policy dimensions.

Sea Grant programs are also investigating other potential energy resources—including tidal power (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New Hampshire), solar energy (Hawaii) and ocean waves (Oregon and Maine)—and are working closely with communities and energy interests to identify and address potential environmental and multiuse concerns. And, on the biofuels front, Delaware and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant are exploring the viability of transforming specific materials into valuable biofuels that could fuel engines and reduce waste.

The Sea Grant Law Center provides legal and policy information to help communities that are interested in renewable energy navigate the intricacies of local and state regulations, and it has published 'Offshore Renewable Energy: A Regulatory Primer,' available at: www.olemiss.edu/orgs/SGLC/National/offshore.pdf.

We hope that over the years to come, the promise of renewable energy options will be fully realized. Through this investment and a commitment to research and outreach in our focus areas, Sea Grant hopes to bring creative and cost-effective solutions to many of our nation's most challenging problems.

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