Portal Illuminates New Collaborative Opportunities for BOEM Official

Maureen Bornholdt has a lot to celebrate: This year, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body Co-Chair – along with her colleagues – is marking the first anniversary of the multi-state, intergovernmental group leading a new era of regional marine planning.

As she looks back on a more than 30-year career working with the Department of the Interior that helped set the stage for the RPB’s formation, she sees a still brighter future ahead, with even more collaborative opportunities.

“When I was given the opportunity to build a program for offshore renewable energy at BOEM, I really wanted to do things differently,” said Bornholdt, who heads BOEM’s off-shore renewable energy program. “We started with the concept of having intergovernmental task forces, which were really a forerunner to regional  ocean planning.”

Now, she and her colleagues are challenged to take their collaborative efforts outside of the bounds inhabited by most regulatory agencies.

“We can all make deep dives into our subject areas, but I think you get robust decision-making when you reach out and leverage and listen to other viewpoints and expertise,” she said. “There’s tremendous value in that.”

And, she said, the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal will be a key tool to broadening the scope of the regional ocean planning conversation.

“We really are trying to define what makes the Mid-Atlantic space so special,” she said. “The beautiful thing about the Portal is that you realize it’s an incredibly busy place.”

With the help of the Portal, stakeholders of all kinds can see how their ocean uses intersect – opening up opportunities for new learning. That even holds true for Bornholdt, who noted that before her work with the RPB she had never heard the term “non-consumptive recreational activity.”  In the next year, the Portal will serve up recreational data layers for users to group with other information already in the database.

“The opportunities are endless,” Bornholdt said. “The challenge is education. Whether you’re talking about offshore energy or tracking maritime commerce we all have a lot of learn. We are committed to obtaining data and analyses so we can make good decisions. The more robust a data portal can be the more useful it can be.”

Bornholdt said the process of building the regional framework for ocean planning will continue to engage stakeholders across a variety of sectors. And in the future, she hopes to hear more voices from the fishing community as well as continued engagement from environmental organizations and conservation advocates. She also hopes that these groups and more will approach the Portal as a tool for engaging with their peers and with each other and that user types will continue to grow in their diversity.

“We have to extend our definition of what the user is,” she said. “Because many of us are regulatory agencies, we tend to think about Portal users to be people like ourselves. Maybe it’s a high school science teacher, maybe it’s my mother.

I think it’s an amazing tool and the opportunity or challenge is in education letting people know you’re there and what the Portal can do.”

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