For those who have been involved in the Bay SAMP process, the CRMC, Coastal Resources Center, and Rhode Island Sea Grant have prepared a letter to express our gratitude for your time and commitment to this process, and to summarize the progress we have made thus far. You can read the full letter and report here.
Background on the Bay SAMP Process: The CRMC Narragansett Bay Special Area Management Plan (Bay SAMP) initiative engages the public in the gathering, synthesizing and sharing of Bay science and best management practices for the purpose of updating state policy to guide Rhode Island’s use and management of Bay resources and activities. The initial focus of the Bay SAMP is to develop policy and standards for the siting of submerged cables within state waters for offshore renewable energy development, and to guide and manage aquaculture projects within Narragansett Bay and the Sakonnet River. The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is undertaking this long-range planning effort to respond to its primary responsibility of preserving, protecting, developing, and where possible restoring coastal areas of the state.
CRMC is obligated under its state enabling legislation to “preserve, protect, develop, and, where possible, restore the coastal resources of the state.” This charge requires CRMC to work towards a balance of uses in tidal waters, including recreational uses and the leasing of tidal waters for commercial use consistent with the enabling legislation. The University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center is assisting CRMC in the development of the Bay SAMP. Please visit our Frequently Asked Questions for more information about the Bay SAMP.
Commitment to Public Involvement: CRMC is committed to engaging the public during all phases of this 12 – 18 month process. Although public meetings and workshops have been organized, CRMC has also engaged the Aquaculture Element Working Group, made up of over 80 Rhode Islanders representing resource users, municipalities, researchers, environmental organizations, and federal and state agencies in the development of project deliverables. As volunteer advisors, the Working Group brings its expertise to the table, asking questions, learning, and making recommendations. The Working Group is an advisory body to the CRMC, it has no legal or regulatory authority, and thus is not a public body as defined under state law. Therefore, the Working Group meetings are not subject to Open Meeting Act notification. The public was also notified of all working group meetings through CRMC’s RI Aquaculture Listserv.
Recordings (when virtual) and summary notes of past meetings can be found here:
Aquaculture Element Working Group Meetings
October 25, 2021 Meeting with Commercial Fisheries – Recorded Meeting
December 7, 2021 Working Group Meeting – Recorded Meeting | Presentation
Resource: Stakeholder Comments for the December 7, 2021 Working
February 23, 2022 Municipal Meeting – Recorded Meeting
Narragansett Bay SAMP: Education Webinar Series
The series provided public webinars and presentations that aim to educate Bay users across the state on aquaculture. The topics were identified by the statewide Bay SAMP Aquaculture Element working group.
December 4, 2023: “Aquaculture Deep Dive 3: Seaweed Aquaculture in Rhode Island”
November 13, 2023: “Aquaculture Deep Dive 2: Strategies to Understand, Minimize, and Resolve Shared Use Conflicts in Rhode Island Aquaculture”
October 16, 2023: “Aquaculture Deep Dive 1: Aquaculture in RI’s Shared Waters”
May 9, 2022: “Best Management Practices (BMPs) and Floating Gear”
April 6, 2022: “Public Perceptions of Aquaculture”
March 21, 2022: “Restorative Aquaculture: Concepts & Practices in the U.S.”
December 14, 2021: “Shellfish Restoration and Enhancement in Rhode Island”
November 23, 2021: “Sharing Science for Shellfish Farming”
October 26, 2021: “Conflicts Between Public and Private Rights Along Rhode Island’s Shore”
September 21, 2021: “In a Half Shell: A Brief History and the Current State of Aquaculture in Rhode Island”
To learn more about aquaculture please see the CRMC Aquaculture FAQs Factsheet
RELEVANT RESEARCH AND RESOURCES
- Screening Criteria for Siting Aquaculture Lease Locations
- Aquaculture Lease Screening Tools
- State-by-State Notification Requirement for Aquaculture Applications
- Stakeholder Comments for the December 7, 2021 Working
- A review of how we assess denitrification in oyster habitats and
proposed guidelines for future studies
- Beyond Bioextraction: The Role of Oyster-Mediated Denitrification
in Nutrient Management
- Opportunities and Challenges for Including Oyster-Mediated
Denitrification in Nitrogen Management Plans
- Meta-analysis of oyster impacts on coastal
For More Information, please contact
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What is the geographic boundary of the Bay SAMP?
The Bay SAMP boundary or study area includes the surface and sub-surface area of Narragansett Bay, including the Sakonnet River to the CRMC coastal feature, as defined by 650-RICR-20-00-1.2.2. The southern boundary is the mouth of the Bay from Point Judith to Beavertail, to Newport, to Sakonnet Point. The northern boundary includes the Providence River up to the Fox Point hurricane barrier, up the Warren River to where it converges with the Barrington and Palmer Rivers at Tyler Point, up the Kickemuit River to where it is crossed by Route 103, and then up the Mount Hope Bay to the Massachusetts/Rhode Island state boundary. This study area does not include areas within the Narrow and Seekonk Rivers. Discussion of other areas or activities outside of this boundary may only be included when there is a direct economic, cultural and/or environmental link to the Bay SAMP study area.
- What is CRMC’s overall charge in the review of aquaculture projects?
The CRMC is obligated under its state enabling legislation to “preserve, protect, develop, and, where possible, restore the coastal resources of the state.” The CRMC’s goal in review of aquaculture projects is to achieve a balance of uses in tidal waters, including recreational uses and the leasing of tidal waters for commercial use consistent with the enabling legislation. In accordance with its regulatory policy the CRMC supports commercial aquaculture in those locations where it can be accommodated among other uses of Rhode Island waters and recognizes that responsible shellfish aquaculture has a net positive effect on the environment. In addition, R.I. General Laws § 20-10-1 specifies that aquaculture should only be conducted within state waters in a manner consistent with the best interest of the public, specifically in terms of impacts on the free and common fishery, navigation, and the marine environment. The Bay SAMP Aquaculture Element work will be accomplished consistent with these requirements.
- CRMC will be basing its Siting Map on Hard Constraints. What are Hard Constraints? For purposes of the Bay SAMP aquaculture element, the term “Hard Constraint” means locations where CRMC would not permit and would prohibit aquaculture leases in accordance with federal and state regulatory constraints. These hard constraints will be reflected in the Siting Map as GIS map layers. Examples of hard constraints include Department of Defense restricted zones within the Bay as defined by 33 C.F.R. §§ 334.80, 334.81 and 334.82, which do not permit any vessel, under any circumstances, to anchor or fish or tow a drag of any kind in the prohibited area.” Other examples include uncertified or prohibited waters (i.e., restricted shellfish harvest areas) as defined by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program and areas of submerged aquatic vegetation (i.e., eelgrass and widgeon grass) as specified in the CRMC Red Book at 650-RICR-20-00-1.3.1(K).
- What is the purpose of the Aquaculture Element (AE)?
With input from the AE Working Group, the AE will contribute to guiding the development and siting of aquaculture through the CRMC regulatory process, while minimizing any potential adverse effects on the natural resources and existing uses within Narragansett Bay.
- What are the major components of the Aquaculture Element?
The AE has three major components. All elements will be developed using the best available science with recommendations from the CRMC ad hoc AE Working Group and public stakeholder input:
1. CRMC Aquaculture Siting Map: The AE Working Group will aid the CRMC in identifying the physical and environmental activities and conditions (hard constraints) where aquaculture will not be allowed. While physical constraints may include, but not be limited to, Department of Defense prohibited zones, navigation channels, other heavily trafficked areas, and mooring fields, environmental constraints may include protected submerged aquatic vegetation (e.g., eelgrass), water quality, and seal haul out areas, among other considerations.
2. Enhanced Navigational and Aesthetic Guidelines or Standards: Considering expertise from other states, aquaculture growers, municipal representatives, and other members of the AE Working Group, CRMC will enhance existing guidelines and standards to minimize the impacts of aquaculture growth on existing and future uses. Some topics may include incorporating additional practices to reduce visual impact of gear types, enhance maintenance and operations procedures, and improved navigational systems.
3. Development of an improved CRMC Notification Process: The CRMC is reviewing its current aquaculture permitting notification process to allow for an increased public understanding and access to proposed aquaculture planning. Although the current CRMC permitting process complies with all federal and state requirements, CRMC recognizes the value and benefits of reviewing this process and responding to this public request. The CRMC is launching a new RI Aquaculture Listserv to promote wider public notification of proposed aquaculture projects and meetings
- How is the public being engaged in the AE development?
To ensure the public is present at all stages of this process, CRMC has developed an ad hoc Working Group, made up of over 80 Rhode Islanders representing resource users, municipalities, researchers, environmental organizations, and federal and state agencies. The CRMC will organize educational sessions and public workshops to ensure there are additional opportunities for public input and to share knowledge to encourage informed decision-making. All events will be made public through the new CRMC RI Aquaculture Listserv and project website.
- What is the role of the AE Working Group?
The ad hoc AE Working Group, serves as an advisory body for the CRMC on this topic. As volunteer advisors, the Working Group brings their expertise to the table, asking questions, learning, and making recommendations. They are also responsible for helping CRMC communicate the AE process and products. The Working Group is an advisory body to the CRMC, it has no legal or regulatory authority, and thus is not a public body as defined under state law. Therefore, the Working Group meetings are not subject to Open Meeting Act notification.
- How will the towns be involved in this process?
At least 3 representatives from many of the Bay municipalities have been invited to sit on the Working Group. Working Group members are encouraged to communicate the results of Working Group meetings (virtual meetings will be recorded and summary notes will be available) to their communities. Any person or town may submit comments to the CRMC via email at any time during this process for consideration by the Working Group.
- Can anyone attend the Working Group meetings?
Yes. If you are interested in being notified of these meetings, please see the CRMC web page to sign up for the RI Aquaculture Listserv. This listserv will also notify you of any CRMC aquaculture applications, related CRMC meetings, CRMC public notices, and Preliminary Determinations (PD) for CRMC aquaculture proposals. See the CRMC Aquaculture Application Package for details.
- What is the general timeframe for completing the Aquaculture Element?
The following is a general timeframe for the informal and formal AE process. AE Working Group meetings and public workshops will take place throughout this process. The public will be notified of all of these meetings through CRMC’s RI Aquaculture Listserv. The project website will post all relevant project information including meetings times and locations. And, during the formal rulemaking process, all CRMC meetings and public notices will be posted to the Secretary of State, as required under the Administrative Procedures Act.
July-October 2021: Issue Identification: Identify community, research, aquaculture grower, and regulatory issues. Identify current information needs, existing relevant information (e.g., data layers, scientific research), and data gaps to assist in responding to issues.
September – December 2021: Identify solutions: Review best management practices and research, and consider enhancements and revisions to existing CRMC aquaculture guidelines, policies and standards.
January – April 2022: Finalize Revisions: Develop final draft revisions to existing CRMC aquaculture guidelines, policies and standards. Convene CRMC public workshops.
May – September 2022: Initiate rulemaking: Begin the formal rulemaking process for any required CRMC regulatory amendments (e.g., aquaculture constraints map including any necessary proposed regulations to implement a map). This rulemaking process is subject to public notice and public hearing requirements under the Administrative Procedures Act.
- Does this mean CMRC will stop processing Aquaculture permits during the development of the Aquaculture Element?
No, applications that are currently pending will continue through the CRMC regulatory review process. Any new applications will be processed provided filings are complete and the applicant has completed the CRMC Preliminary Determination process. Visit the CRMC website to learn more about this process: http://www.crmc.ri.gov/applicationforms.html