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Virginia CZM Program: 2017 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo



Coastal States Stewardship Foundation

Project Title:

Identifying and Assessing Ecologically Rich Areas (ERAs)

Project Description:

This project will focus on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan’s Healthy Ocean Ecosystem Action #1: Identify ecologically rich areas (ERAs) of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean and increase understanding of those areas to foster more informed decision making. The overall goal of the project is to test the utility of a new approach to identifying key ocean habitats that synthesizes information on marine animals and habitats and how they are currently used and managed into concise reports that lead to better informed decision-making.

There are four sub-goals for this project which correspond to Steps C through F of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan’s Healthy Ocean Ecosystem Action #1 (see pages 40-41 at At the June 2017 Mid-A Regional Planning Body meeting, it was determined that the steps for this action should proceed on a slower timeline than envisioned in the Ocean Action Plan, and that a stronger emphasis on understanding and sharing information about how data synthesis products can inform the five individual components of ERAs was a preferred approach.  Step A (finalizing the draft framework for and creating draft maps to illustrate components of ERAs) is expected to be completed by mid-October 2017. Therefore this project proposes to begin with Step B.  Steps B through F of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan, revised as of the June 2017 and as are relevant to this project include:

B. Apply methodologies and identify potential ERAs*
*The ERA Work Group and MDAT do not believe all ERAs can be identified by the end of 2017 due to continued uncertainties as to how much additional synthesis of component maps will be feasible. 
1. Create draft maps illustrating the 5 components of ERAs (productivity, abundance, biodiversity, rarity and vulnerability) and fact sheets for each component by mid-October 2017.  Fact sheets to explain data included in the illustration, uncertainty levels of included data, data gaps, and how color codes were derived.
2. Conduct workshop to present marine life data syntheses and gather input on data critical to characterizing components of and types of ERAs in November 2017.
3. Present results of November workshop at full RPB December 2017 meeting.

C. Select one or more potential ERAs, based on a set of criteria to be developed 
1. Solicit additional input from RPB and stakeholders on criteria for selecting an ERA for the first report May - November 2017 
2. Finalize criteria for selecting the first ERA at December RPB in-person meeting.
3. RPB selects an ERA for in-depth review in 2018.

D. Review the selected ERA and develop a report on ecological function, trends and current management
1. By December 2017, contract with appropriate entities and/or identify appropriate staff to begin work on the first ERA report in 2018.
E. Compile information collected for the selected ERA into a comprehensive factual report to inform management authorities in decision-making for that area

F. Document and evaluate use of the first report in informing agency-specific processes and
methodologies for decision-making and make any necessary improvements to the process of
identifying, reviewing and developing reports about ERAs.

The Virginia CZM Manager is serving as the lead for Healthy Ocean Ecosystem Action #1 for Ecologically Rich Areas, therefore Virginia is proposing this work on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body.  This project will provide MARCO staff time to assist the ERA Work Group Lead.  The ERA Work Group includes members from each of the five Mid-Atlantic states as well as representatives of NOAA, DoD, USFWS, BOEM and EPA, Shinnecock Tribe, Pamunkey Tribe and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Kate Morrison, 703.744.0844;

Project Status:

10/1/2017 - 9/30/2018; Project Open

Final Product:


Project Summary:


Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to










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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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