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Institutional Setting
This page gives a brief description of the legal authorities and jurisdictions in the ocean off the Oregon coast. For a thorough discussion, view Part One of the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan.

Map of Oregon Ocean Stewardship Area and Territorial SeaThe state's ocean jurisdiction [the Territorial Sea] extends three nautical miles from shore [Mean Low Water], although offshore rocks and islands can extend this area seaward, such as at Orford Reef near Cape Blanco [see map to right; Territorial Sea is shaded white].
 
Oregon's interests in ocean resource policy and management are not limited to state waters. Because the ocean is a fluid, dynamic environment and is part of a much larger regional marine ecosystem, ocean uses and activities that occur in federal waters farther to the west, such as fishing or, potentially, oil or gas drilling, can affect Oregon's coastal environment and communities.
 
So, Oregon has designated an Ocean Stewardship Area [see map above] that extends from shore seaward across the relatively shallow continental shelf then down to the toe of the continental slope at about 2500 to 3000 meters deep, some 15 to 40 miles offshore. This area is the most biologically productive, where human uses and effects are most intense, and where the need for management and protection is greatest. The Ocean Stewardship Area was first expressed as a recommended policy in the Oregon Ocean Resources Management Plan, adopted in 1990, and was incorporated into Statewide Planning Goal 19, Ocean Resources, in 2000.
 
A large number of state and federal agencies have jurisdiction or regulatory authority in Oregon's Territorial Sea area. Click here for a diagram in pdf format showing the general areas of concern for many of these agencies and programs. A list of acronyms is located in Appendix C  of the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan (pdf).

Jurisdictional boundaries
Actual jurisdictional boundaries along the ocean shore are complicated because of two factors.
 
First, jurisdictional boundaries are almost always expressed in terms of the height of the water, or sea level. Sea level can vary with the slope of the shore, the height of the tide, storm events, and, over time, tectonic uplift of the continent or, conversely, sea level rise. So average water levels are reference, but these can change over time. In addition, land-based surveys historically began at a different base level than nautical or sea level surveys.
 
Second, different state and federal laws have been enacted that refer to different water levels toe establish jurisdictional or regulatory boundaries. Different terminology between statutes can also lead to complications.
 
For a description of terms used to describe shore boundaries and a diagram that shows the boundaries and terminologies in use along the Oregon coast, see Appendix D of the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan (pdf).