United States of America (Rhode Island)

United States of America (Rhode Island)

Rhode IslandThrough the Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP), the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) committed to uphold both its obligations to preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, restore the coastal resources of the state for this and succeeding generations, and to ensure that the preservation and restoration of ecological systems shall be the primary guiding principle upon which environmental alteration of coastal resources will be measured, judged and regulated. The waters off Rhode Island’s coasts have long served as an important and highly valuable environmental, economic and cultural hub for the people living in the region.

The natural beauty of these offshore waters, along with their rich historic and cultural heritage, provides aesthetic, artistic, educational, and spiritual value and is part of the appeal that draws people to live, work, and play in Rhode Island. Rhode Island’s offshore waters are an ecologically unique region and host an interesting biodiversity of fish, marine mammals, birds, and sea turtles that travel throughout this region, thriving on its rich habitats, microscopic organisms, and other natural resources.

There is an increased demand for the potential placement of many structures and activities, including liquefied natural gas infrastructure, aquaculture, and artificial reefs, in Rhode Island’s offshore waters. However, the major driver for the development of the Ocean SAMP was the determination by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources in 2007 that investment in offshore wind farms would be necessary to achieve Governor’s mandate that offshore wind resources provide 15 percent of the state’s electrical power by 2020. In response, the CRMC proposed the creation of a SAMP as a mechanism to develop a comprehensive management and regulatory tool that would proactively engage the public and provide policies and recommendations for appropriate siting of offshore renewable energy.

Rhode Island

The Ocean SAMP is the regulatory, planning and adaptive management tool that applied to implement these regulatory responsibilities in the Ocean SAMP study area. Using the best available science and environmental and civic organizations, and local, state and federal government agencies, the Ocean SAMP provided a comprehensive understanding of this complex and rich ecosystem. The Ocean SAMP also documented how the people of Rhode Island have used and depended upon these offshore resources for subsistence, work, and play, and how the wildlife such as fish, birds, marine mammals and sea turtles feed, spawn, reproduce, and migrate throughout this region, thriving on the rich habitats, microscopic organisms, and other natural resources. To fulfill the Council’s mandate, the Ocean SAMP laid out enforceable policies and recommendations to guide CRMC in promoting a balanced and comprehensive ecosystem-based management approach to the development and protection of Rhode Island’s ocean-based resources within the Ocean SAMP study area.



Authority:Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 and a 2007 request by Governor’s Energy Office
Lead Planning Agency:Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council
Financing:$8 million from the State of Rhode Island
Size of Planning Area:3,800 km2 (State waters of Rhode Island), although for planning analyses, the “analytical boundary” was extended into federal waters to 20 nm
Time required to complete the plans:Not specified
Drivers of MSP:Wind farm siting
Stakeholder participation:Extensive throughout the MSP process, and will continue through implementation phase; an Ocean SAMP stakeholder group has been an integral part of both determining the scope and contents of the plan as well as refining its policies and management measures
Sectors included in planning:All, including fishing
Relation to coastal management:The Ocean SAMP is integrated into the Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management Program
Relation to marine protected area management:Existing MPAs were considered as “constraints” in the MSP process, i.e., their boundaries would not be changed; no new MPAs suggested as part of process
Plan approval:Approved by Rhode Island in May 2011; approved by U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also in May 2011
Legal Status of Plan:Regulatory and enforceable
Plan revision:Major review required every five years
Performance monitoring and evaluation:One of the principles of the plan is to establish monitoring and evaluation that supports adaptive management; however, monitoring discussions in plan focus on ambient monitoring or monitoring effects of specific programs or projects unrelated to management measures of plan


Rhode Island Ocean SAMP