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Fall 2004 Summary Report

SECOORA Summit, November 30 - December 2, 2004, Jacksonville, Florida. Resulting in the resolution to establish SECOORA.

You can download this summary as a Word Document, an Open Document, or an Adobe PDF. You can also view the Resolution and an attendance list.


The Southeastern Coastal Ocean Observations Regional Association SECOORA) held an organizational Summit in Jacksonville, FLA, November 30 – December 2, 2004. The purpose of the Summit was to involve representatives of organizations with an interest in SECOORA an opportunity to participate in the development of the governance structure and business plan for this newly emerging organization.

The Summit began with an overview of the national coastal ocean observing initiative and the role of regional associations in implementing that initiative. The remainder of the Summit was spent focusing on issues related to the development of SECOORA.

The following is a summary of Summit outcomes prepared by facilitator Elizabeth Waters. They are organized into the following six major categories:

  • governance;
  • guiding principles;
  • key roles;
  • one and five-year agendas;
  • initial ideas on system needs; and
  • next steps.

These outcomes will provide guidance and input for the next phase of governance and business plan development over the coming year. Participants were asked to sign a proclamation of intent to continue to participate in the development of SECOORA and a large majority of participants did so.

Governance of SECOORA

Participants had been provided with a set of draft by-laws for SECOORA in advance of the Summit. They discussed various aspects of the draft and offered suggestions. Over-all there was significant support for the direction and content of the draft by-laws with the understanding that the ad hoc governance organizing committee would continue to work on this and follow-up on the input they received.

Governance elements where there was general agreement:

  • Continue to pursue incorporating as a non-profit organization but continue to explore other options to be certain this is the correct approach.
  • Develop Articles of Incorporation to cover governance elements least likely to require change over time.
  • Keep the by-laws as simple as possible, using basic enabling language that will allow the organization to evolve without having to revise the by-laws frequently.
  • Put more detailed materials about how the organization will operate into the business plan where they can be changed easily.
  • Establish a membership threshold that ensures a high level of interest and involvement but does not exclude interested organizations.
  • Allow multiple memberships by large complex institutions.
  • Start dues low enough—$500-$1,000—to be fairly inclusive, but consider a sliding scale up to $10,000 based on a system like those used by Chambers of Commerce and similar organizations.
  • Have organizations designate individuals to represent them as SECOORA members and on the governing Board.
  • Have one annual meeting of members and semi-annual meetings of the Board.
  • Have a Board comprised of individuals/organizations that reflect the diversity of the organization: taking into account geography, expertise, public/private, different sectors, etc.
  • Have the officers make up the core of the Executive Committee, with other members as appropriate.
  • Incorporate a formal legal review process of draft by-laws.

Governance elements requiring revisiting or additional exploration:

  • Liability and sovereign immunity issues.
  • A 4-state compact to strengthen the RA.
  • "Key portion of their activities" language in by-laws for membership eligibility may be too restrictive.
  • Size of the Board—12 to 15 may be too small.
  • Conflict of interest sections of the by-laws.
  • Meeting quorums and e-mail, phone and other vote options.
  • Intellectual property issues.
  • Constraints on federal participation in a non-profit organization.

Guiding Principles for SECOORA

During the three days of discussions, the following general principles emerged that could serve as a starting point for developing a formal set of guiding principles for SECOORA at some point in the future.

  • SECOORA should be a user driven system from design through implementation.
  • SECOORA should be a dynamic system that constantly evolves to accommodate change.
  • The geographic reach of SECOORA should be from head of tide to seaward edge of EEZ.
  • SECOORA should be a system built initially on existing assets.
  • SECOORA should be a system designed to work in larger contexts with connections to national and global systems.
  • Partnerships will be fundamental to efficient and effective implementation of SECOORA at every phase.
  • Public benefit should be the driving force behind the entire regional coastal ocean observation system (COOS).
  • SECOORA should be an open and transparent networked system.
  • SECOORA should be designed for efficiency in integrating and coordinating regional COOS assets.

Key Roles of SECOORA

As with the guiding principles, participants identified a number of key roles for SECOORA that should be considered during the business plan development process.

  • Facilitate/oversee the design, development, operation and use of regional COOS.
  • Work with other regional associations to develop the national coastal ocean observing "backbone" and to build the National Federation of Regional Associations.
  • Work with other partners to develop COOS system standards.
  • Identify criteria and priorities to promote basic and applied research that meets short and long-term operational and management needs.
  • Serve as a communications "hub" or link between local, state, and national levels of ocean observing activity and users.
  • Coordinate education, outreach, and technical assistance needs related to the development and use of the regional system.
  • Identify and facilitate partnerships to develop and implement the regional system.
  • Manage funds for regional system development, operations, management, research and outreach.

SECOORA One and Five Year Agendas

All Regional Associations are required to prepare and submit a 5-year business plan to become certified. At the Summit, participants generated ideas for one and five-year goals and activities for the organization. These will serve as a starting point for development of the SECOORA business plan over the coming year.

5-Year Goals/Vision for SECOORA

Participants identified the following goals for where SECOORA should be in five years. These goals assume activities in Years 1–5 that would allow the organization to realize these goals.

  1. SECOORA will be the COOS communication "hub" in the region, coordinating the activities of members and serving both members and users.
  2. SECOORA will have continuously updated regional inventories of assets, data, products and users that meet agreed upon criteria.
  3. SECOORA will have a requirement-driven regional data system with appropriate levels of interoperability.
  4. SECOORA will have guidance and standards in place for data collection and linkages that are compatible with national and global efforts.
  5. SECOORA will have designed a flexible and open system architecture and will have developed this to the extent that funding allows.
  6. SECOORA's network of observation capability will be deployed according to system architecture and guided by user requirements.
  7. SECOORA will be collecting, aggregating, and disseminating data in a variety of forms suited to user needs (graphics, "clickable" maps, etc.)
  8. SECOORA will have the infrastructure for a regional operations center of some type, virtual or other.
  9. SECOORA will have a strategy for upgrading observational capacity for chemical and biological components to capture more complete ecosystem data.
  10. SECOORA will have education/outreach activities that ensure ongoing interactions with users on all aspects of regional system development and use.
  11. SECOORA will have a well-developed, dynamic, user-focused website.
  12. SECOORA will have a plan for sustainable funding for the organization.
  13. SECOORA will be able to demonstrate that it is having a positive impact on ecosystem management and the seven IOOS societal goals.

Year-One Activities

Participants identified the following activities that they felt would be important to undertake in Year 1 of the business plan.

  1. Develop a process for working with users to define requirements of the regional system.
  2. Define the role of the RA in operational activities.
  3. Develop a dynamic inventory of public and private data, observation systems, and models, based on agreed upon criteria.
  4. Continue to develop stakeholder and user inventories.
  5. Begin evaluation of data management and collection systems and identification of standards in partnership with others.
  6. Design the initial system architecture, including roles of different sectors.
  7. Initiate processes for data, service and functionality gap analyses.
  8. Assume responsibility for the state of the coast report.
  9. Develop internal and external communication plans.
  10. Initiate a market analysis/prioritization of user needs, using "super users" as a starting point.
  11. Initiate development of a user focused website.
  12. Develop criteria and set demonstration project priorities.
  13. Begin demonstration projects.
  14. Develop performance evaluation criteria for the new regional system.

Initial Business Plan Ideas

Participants agreed the first step in setting operational, research, education and demonstration project priorities will be the development of criteria to guide that process. In keeping with their guiding principles, they said those criteria should be user driven and might include such things as high level of commonality/multiple user potential, activities with region-wide implications, applicability to high public values like human health and safety, etc. The discussions generated a number of education, research and demonstration project ideas for consideration once the criteria have been identified.

Education/Training and Outreach

  1. User contact to identify system needs and requirements and maintain ongoing feedback mechanisms.
  2. Programs to educate users about available information, products and value of the system.
  3. Technical assistance for implementation of data management standards.
  4. Education and training of workforce to operate and use the regional system.
  5. Ways to "advertise" what is happening, new developments, and benefits of membership in the regional system.
  6. Formal and informal interaction with K–12 education system.


  1. Integrate, expand and operationalize remote sensing capabilities at sufficient resolution to meet user needs.
  2. Integrate land, water, atmospheric data that impact the coastal environment to meet management needs.
  3. Develop enhanced biological and chemical sensor capability.
  4. Identify the best ways to educate a wide range of COOS data/model/product users about what is available and learn what they need.
  5. Identify ways to develop ongoing socio-economic cost benefit analysis of regional COOS.
  6. Identify ways to validate remote sensing technology in coastal areas.
  7. Identify ways to validate remote sensing technology and platforms to address species and vessel monitoring.
  8. Integrate physical and biological modeling to aid fisheries management.

Demonstration Projects

  1. Expand sub-surface sea temperature data collection and analyses.
  2. Locate an area with a critical mass of sensors and aggregate that information to simulate how a fully operational system would work.
  3. Pick a limited geographic area and combine estuary to near-shore/coastal environment data to demonstrate a more integrated picture.
  4. Reach out to the Gulf, Bahamas, South America, or other adjacent areas of influence to identify coordination opportunities.
  5. Select high human health, safety issues like beach closure or fisheries management to highlight value of system information.
  6. Use circulation modeling as the basis for pilot efforts to explore user needs, potential products, etc.
  7. Start with a simpler component than circulation, say water level, to do this outreach.
  8. Integrate traditional environmental monitoring with ocean observation data.

Next Steps


The ad hoc governance organizing committee will continue to meet. The committee will consider all Summit input, coordinate the legal review and prepare a final set of draft by-laws to circulate in about six months. They will also look into options for getting an initial SECOORA governing board in place, which is a requirement for formal incorporation. Summit participants were invited to submit any additional comments related to governance to the governance organizing committee, through Sandy Bernard, within 30 days.

Business Plan

Ad hoc work groups will be assembled to assist with business plan development, with a goal of having the plan completed within a year. These ad hoc groups will seek guidance from Ocean.US and get examples of business plans from other RAs that are further along in the development process.


The interim SECOORA management team will continue to collaborate with other RAs through informal meetings and monthly conference calls. Among other things they will be working on ways for large businesses to be actively involved without having to participate directly in every region. At the next SECOORA meeting the interim management team will report on progress on SECOORAS's governance structure and the business plan. No date has been set for that meeting. It was requested that SECOORA set up an on-line forum for discussion among interested parties with links to other RA sites so people can stay in communication as the organization process continues.

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