Aquaculture Permitting Process
The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is the agency responsible for planning and management of Rhode Island's coastal resources. The CRMC oversees almost every aspect of our coastal water, including projects related to marinas, dredging, offshore wind, development and conservation. They are also responsible for the permitting of aquaculture leases in the state.
Recent events suggest that this permitting process has gone off track, demonstrating a bias too much in favor of development and too little in support of recreational users.
To restore balance to the process, RICAC advocates for reform of CRMC aquaculture permitting along the following lines:
Adherence to Rhode Island’s Public Trust Doctrine. We want to preserve existing public use of coastal waters now and for future generations.
Independent and objective assessments. Establish an independent evaluation framework that advocates for the public interest during the aquaculture review process, led by a Public Ombudsman.
Accountability and certainty. CRMC staff should follow clear guidelines on placement of aquaculture operations that minimize conflicting uses in areas of high recreational use or have high scenic value. Too much subjective interpretation exists in the current review process.
Enhanced public notification. Collect meaningful public input early in the process. Notification to include abutters, nearby public access points, stakeholder organizations, and local newspapers.
Aquaculture exclusion zones defined by municipalities. Municipalities should be able to create exclusion zones in areas that are preserved for conservation, recreation, and public access.
Responding to public sentiment on this issue, the RI State Legislature appointed a House Special Commission to study the workings of the CRMC, conduct public hearings, and recommend reforms. A group of Concerned Citizens wrote to the Special Commission, making their case for reform of the aquaculture permitting process.
In reply, the CRMC proposed revisions, particularly regarding public notification, which many criticized as inadequate. Details on their proposal and RICAC's response can be found HERE.
SPECIAL COMMISSION ISSUES FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS:
The Commission's Final Report can be found HERE. While RICAC is disappointed that substantial reform of the CRMC has been pushed into the next legislative session (or the next, or the next), RICAC applauds the Commission's chair Rep. Deborah Ruggerio other members of the Commission for their excellent, diligent work, and thank them for their service to the people of Rhode Island. All users of the coastal resource appreciate their sustained attention to the need for reform of the CRMC.