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RI Coastal Resources Management Council

...to preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

EU report: BMPs learned through Ocean SAMP

June 22, 2017, WAKEFIELD – A recent case study performed on the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP) by the European Union, looking at best practices of marine spatial planning, found a number of unique and notable achievements that have contributed to the SAMP’s success.

The report from the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME), published in May, is part of a “Study on International Best Practices for Cross-Border Maritime Spatial Planning,” and is the result of a case study conducted in Rhode Island last fall. (There were also shorter case studies of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.) In particular, it sought to examine interactions between state and federal authorities across the state-federal marine waters; and between neighboring states, with special focus on Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

While the case study noted that interstate collaboration is infrequent due to different regulatory and policy frameworks between states and often requires formal agreements to commit agencies on both sides of the border, cooperation has long been established across state lines, and when it does occur, is generally effective.

“No formal collaborative agreements existed in the domain of coastal and marine management involving the State of RI and its neighbour[sic] states before the Ocean SAMP,” the report states. “The latter led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding between RI and MA for the development of offshore wind in federal waters adjacent to both states.” The report also notes that state-federal relationships “have been one of the defining features of the Ocean SAMP, both in planning and implementation.”

According to the case study, the CRMC’s Ocean SAMP did the following:

  • Streamlined the regulatory process and facilitated investment in offshore wind development, resulting in the construction of the first US offshore wind farm in the Renewable Energy Zone off Block Island;
  • Generated and compiled an unprecedented amount of knowledge about the ecosystem in the SAMP area, including human uses;
  • Delineated restricted use areas to preserve the environment or certain human activities (Areas Designated for Preservation [ADP] and Areas of Particular Concern [APC]) which were established based on data collected for the SAMP;
  • Developed tools and coordination to aid in the siting of offshore wind farms and other activities within the SAMP to minimize impact on other uses;
  • Established new user group relationships, particularly fisheries and offshore wind developers, promoted good practices introduced through the Ocean SAMP policies, and reduced conflict between user groups, particularly the two listed above; and
  • Created a “social capital,” a constituency of stakeholders and organizations engaged in the protection and sustainable use of the state’s offshore resources.

“An intensive stakeholder engagement process was therefore followed to trust by engaging stakeholders in the Ocean SAMP, and at present this remains one of the Ocean SAMP’s greatest achievements, in that it succeeded in building support for the plan with stakeholders,” the report said. Through this process, the report states, four goals were established that covered social, economic and environmental outcomes that everyone could support: 1) foster a properly functioning ecosystem that is ecologically sound and economically beneficial; 2) promote and enhance existing uses; 3) encourage marine-based economic development that considers local communities and is consistent with and complementary to the state’s overall economic development, social, and environmental needs and goals; and 4) build a framework for coordinated decision-making between state and federal management agencies.

“The Ocean SAMP was the largest and most ambitious planning effort of its kind that the CRMC had taken on at that point, but it was about so much more than a document, and this EU case study outlines that,” said CRMC Executive Director Grover J. Fugate. “For us, it was about getting everyone – the fishing industry, tourism, the Narragansett Tribe, environmental groups, regulators, and Rhode Islanders – on-board, and we did that through this process. It is a compliment to us all that other countries look to it for inspiration and example.”

Rhode Island’s Ocean SAMP was developed by the CRMC, together with the University of RI Graduate School of Oceanography and Coastal Resources Center, R.I. Sea Grant, Roger Williams University and numerous stakeholders and partners, over a two-year period in response to climate change, and the knowledge that Rhode Island is particularly susceptible. It also sought to act on the state’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint through renewable energy use – primarily offshore wind – to meet 15 percent of its energy needs. The Ocean SAMP has been regionally, nationally, and internationally recognized for its revolutionary planning policies and standards. http://www.crmc.ri.gov/samp_ocean.html

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