The Portal is the Plan: Governing US Oceans In Regional Assemblages

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Ocean Science and Engineering


© 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. We apply theories of environmental governance, assemblage, and geo-epistemology to critically reflect on ocean planning in federal waters of the USA. US ocean planning was initiated in July 2010 when President Obama issued Executive Order 13547; this set in motion what was then called coastal and marine spatial planning, but without a congressional legislative mandate or budgetary appropriation. There are many reasons we might expect ocean planning to be centered in the US federal government, but ocean planning is transpiring in a neoliberal era in which there is little enthusiasm for “big government” and its projects. Thus, the project has been one of governance, with federal and state agencies participating along with non-government actors. What does a public planning process of this scope and geographic extent look like as a project of environmental governance? We focus on governance actors and the scale at which they operate, as well as the data infrastructure to support ocean planning, to analyze how US ocean planning is both illustrative of and contributes to our understanding of contemporary environmental governance. We have argued elsewhere that ocean planning in the USA has the potential to deliver outcomes alternative to marginalization of communities and enclosure of environments for capital accumulation, but this potential is fragile. In an era of unstable government when executive orders can be issued and revoked at the whim of the White House, questions about who/how ocean planning is carried in real space/time become even more important.

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Maritime Studies

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