The revolutionary website and GeoPortal are meant to encourage robust and expanded public engagement through innovative processes and pathways.
CSA Ocean Sciences Inc. (CSA) has successfully assisted the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in the development of a public engagement website and online GeoPortal associated with the preparation of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program (www.BOEMoceaninfo.com). BOEM’s vision for the Programmatic EIS scoping process is to engage a wide range of stakeholders and promote a dynamic stakeholder interaction that will comprehensively capture relevant and diverse input as it relates to local expertise and perspectives. The primary website provides access to information regarding the public involvement process, Programmatic EIS education, GeoPortal access, and best practices for formulating comments.
CSA, in association with Kearns & West, supported BOEM in the development of an improved method for collecting useful scoping comments to inform the Programmatic EIS process. Users of the website and GeoPortal are encouraged to provide comments that are specific, geographically-focused, concise, and supported by scientific evidence or sound reasoning. Stakeholders are encouraged to participate in the process by submitting comments online, creating maps on the GeoPortal site to support their comments, or uploading relevant geospatial datasets. Utilizing new web development toolsets, BOEM will be able to capture a broader, national range of stakeholder feedback while funneling comments and suggestions through an evaluation process aimed at collecting those most relevant to the scoping of the Programmatic EIS.
Understanding the need for insightful visualizations, BOEM commissioned CSA to design, develop, and construct a GeoPortal built around spatial data focused on the conditions and features of the OCS within the areas under possible consideration of potential new leases in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and Mid- and South Atlantic. Stakeholders will be able to investigate areas being considered, identify data gaps, create maps to submit with comments, and enhance their knowledge of resources that may be affected. The GeoPortal provides a variety of data sets that range from bathymetry contours and commercial fishing areas to critical habitats for protected species and managed areas. Interactive features such as drawing, measurement, and identification tools allow users to create customized maps to support their comments or suggestions.
Poojan Tripathi, BOEM’s Project Manager, said, “Both the public engagement website and GeoPortal will be extremely useful tools in presenting relevant and up-to-date information to stakeholders in the decision-making process and ensuring that the comments we receive directly inform the NEPA analysis we are presently embarking upon. We hope this innovative approach will set a new standard for the Bureau in engaging stakeholders in a meaningful and substantive way.”