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RI Coastal Resources Management Council

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
General
FAQs

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is the state agency tasked with managing and regulating activities that occur on and near the coast of our state. It was created in 1971 by the General Assembly, comprised of a professional staff of engineers and biologists, and a 10-member Council of Governor-appointed laypeople representing different Rhode Island communities. The Council serves as the adjudicatory arm of the agency and hears complex and difficult applications, as well as regulatory matters.

In order to carry out its mandate to “preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, restore the coastal resources of the state for this and succeeding generations…,” the agency is involved in many different functions in the state’s coastal zone. The CRMC is in its simplest form, a management and planning, and permitting agency. But it also investigates and designates rights-of-way to the shore, manages habitat restoration projects, serves as the state’s dredging coordinator, regulates the state’s aquaculture industry, oversees municipal harbor management plans and marina activities, develops long-term area-specific plans called Special Area Management Plans, regulates certain federal activities in coastal areas, and leads the state’s efforts to combat aquatic invasive species. It also participates in long-term planning to address climate change, storm-related issues that impact Rhode Island, sea level rise, and coastal adaptation. For more, explore our web site.

For more information on our other areas of jurisdiction and expertise, browse the Topics dropdown menu from the CRMC homepage for more.

Our professional staff processes applications, creates policy and planning tools and documents, evaluates special projects, and advises the Council on certain permitting activities. The CRMC executes the state’s coastal program or Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Plan (Red Book), as well as select federal activities that occur in Rhode Island and its waters, and regularly cooperates and collaborates with other municipalities, state and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations. For more on the CRMC’s various programs, go to our Regulations page.

Generally, it is defined as all tidal waters of the state extending to three (3) nautical miles offshore, and includes all coastal features (e.g., coastal beaches, barriers, dunes, coastal wetlands, rocky shorelines, etc.) and the 200-foot contiguous area to those features. Certain inland activities such as energy generating facilities greater than 40 megawatts, chemical or petroleum processing, transfer, or storage and other inland activities specified in state law may require CRMC review. The CRMC has jurisdiction for specific watershed activities (e.g., subdivisions of six or more units, roadways, large septic systems, etc.) within the Narrow River and Salt Pond Special Area Management Plans (SAMPs). The CRMC also has jurisdiction for activities affecting freshwater wetlands in the vicinity of the coast. For more information, see the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Program (RICRMP) Red Book (650-RICR-20-00-1).

CRMC will log your complaint and refer you to the appropriate Enforcement staff for further information.

Yes, you can. Article 1 Section 17 of the Rhode Island Constitution allows for the collection of seaweed, among other privileges. Here are some caveats:

  • Collect only what you need (don’t collect ALL of it)
  • Don’t access the shore through/via private property
  • Stick to the wet sand area when collecting
  • Be respectful of others on the beach/property owners

As outlined in the section of the RI Constitution listed above, rights afforded to Rhode Islanders under it include “but are not limited to” fishing from the shore, gathering seaweed, leaving the shore to swim in the ocean, and passage along the shore. If you’re walking in the wet sand, swimming, collecting seaweed, or fishing from the wet sand or in the water, you should be fine. Setting up an umbrella, towel, chair, cooler or other items in the dry sand area might get you some unwanted attention from the property owner, however. See our brochure on Public Access for more information.

CRMC is now processing all Beach Vehicle Permits/Trail passes ONLINE. *Please Note: Once you’ve finished completing your online BVP application, the CRMC will contact you regarding your schedule to visit the office for your sticker. The Burlingame location is available for on-site application only.*

For more information, go here.

  • How much is a BVP? The fee for a BVP is $100 for RI registered vehicles, and $200 for out-of-state registrations.
  • Do you conduct inspections for a beach vehicle permit? No, but you are required to sign an off-road vehicle affidavit.

That depends, as CRMC, DEM and many local municipalities and federal agencies have 50 percent or other thresholds on which to apply regulations. For CRMC purposes, 50 percent typically refers to RI State Stormwater Manual requirements or Red Book buffer zone SLC increases, reference specific Red Book Sections for more detailed information.

Submitting Your
Application FAQs

You can email a PDF to cstaff1@crmc.ri.gov, or mail it to us (address is below). You can also mail or drop off your application, complete and with four (4) hard copies and an electronic version of the plans.

RI Coastal Resources Management Council
Stedman Government Center, Suite 3
4808 Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, RI 02879

Please make your check out to the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council or RI CRMC. Sorry, we cannot accept cash or credit card/debit card payments at this time. Check here for the current schedule of fees (and scroll down). Many projects are captured under the “All Others” section, and use an Estimated Project Cost (EPC) for fee calculation.

Where there are questions or concerns regarding a submitted application, CRMC will contact the applicants for additional details or provide a written deficiency letter which identifies in writing additional materials that are needed. Additionally, our webpage provides a database of all applications.

The CRMC always strives to provide as much information about a project or permit or process as is practical.  However, providing detailed information without an application in-hand - including site plans – is precarious; staff often cannot make definitive decisions or identify all applicable regulatory requirements about potential projects via these methods. Please submit your application, and then follow the steps above for more information.

Those requesting CRMC’s review of complex issues, or projects where there are more than a few general questions should submit a request for a preliminary meeting or a request for a preliminary determination which will result in a written project evaluation. 

* During the COVID pandemic, the CRMC understands applicants’ and consultants’ desires to be safe and obtain information in a contactless manner, but keep the above in mind as you proceed. The CRMC staff will still not make official determinations without seeing/reviewing applications. *

Due to the pandemic, the building is closed to the public except with an appointment (please call 401-783-3370, or email if the matter isn’t urgent), but please read through the FAQs before calling front office staff with any additional questions you might have.

Anyone can file the application, but the owner must sign it. If your application is a contested or largely variant project, sometimes an attorney may submit it on your behalf.  Private consultants (architect, engineer, surveyor, etc.) and contractors also handle many projects as well as homeowners on smaller or repair projects.  The CRMC advises you to choose one contact person for staff to work with.

Generally, for most residential work you will need:

  • Application form (owner signature)
  • Fee
  • Proof of ownership (tax assessor letter)
  • Site plans (PE, PLS, architect, contractor, etc), to-scale with coastal feature shown relative to the existing and proposed work (see specific project checklists for more information)
    local building official signoff
  • DEM OWTS approval or sewer approval
  • stormwater Best Management Practices and calculations (depending on project)
  • CHA worksheet (for certain projects)
  • written variance request for all standards not met

If these are not all included (as applicable), CRMC administrative staff will alert the prospective applicant or representative.  Permit staff may request additional information as they review the project.

Project/Application FAQs
Once you have your project in mind...

Your design consultant and/or CRMC staff can give an estimate, however official jurisdictional determinations require written applications. When in doubt, contact CRMC first.

Typically, assents are valid for three years from the date they are issued. Buffer zone management assents are valid for 10 years.

Check our online database, enter the property information, and the database will provide limited information. You can also request an electronic copy of any file (provide file #) via email or phone – cstaff1@crmc.ri.gov or (401)783-3370.

Check our online database, and look for file number(s) associated with the property you’re interested in, or call with property information to determine its status.

Here are some things to know/keep in mind when considering the scale of your project:

  • Structural Lot Coverage (SLC) expansions <50% which meet the lot requirements may be eligible for administrative review (non-Council hearing).  
  • Maintenance permits are typically quicker; they are for in-kind replacement of existing authorized structures (roof, windows, door, deck, driveway, etc).  Other typically quicker administrative permits include certain accessory structures and minor improvements (adding windows (excepting bay), decks, sheds, etc).
  • Interior work (including finishing a basement) does not require a CRMC permit, nor is it included in your application fee.
  • Adding a roofed or cantilevered structure (porch, entry, garage, bay window, etc) is a structural lot coverage (SLC) increase.  Adding an unroofed open deck is not a SLC increase, nor are 2nd story additions (roofed or unroofed).

For residential redevelopment (raze/rebuild, additions, etc.), here are some “red flags” that CRMC could focus on in the review of your project:

  • Existing (pre-1995) vs. Proposed Structural Lot Coverage (SLC) calculations are required. SLC increase >50% requires establishment of a vegetated buffer zone. An SLC increase <50% means no new buffer is required, but the applicant must avoid alterations to existing natural buffer vegetation located between the work and coastal feature.
  • SLC increase which does not meet the 50’ construction setback should be limited to <25% and may not be eligible for administrative review.
  • Stormwater treatment is required for new impervious driveway surface or new roof area:
    • new dwelling or demo/rebuild--treat entire roofed area
    • additions >600sf (not including 2nd story over existing footprint)
    • anything other than crushed stone for driveway
  • Coastal Hazard Analysis (CHA) is required for certain activities/permits. This tool evaluates a site from perspectives of sea level rise, storm flooding, and erosion risk.

The site will require a coastal assent application for any new work.  The current wetland edge needs to be shown and both the CRMC FWWVC Rules and CRMP Red Book/SAMP requirements may need to be met. No alteration to existing natural vegetation is allowed and any prior buffer zone requirements for the site will be vetted during review. All earth work should be setback a minimum 50 feet from the wetland edge.  If this is not possible, then minimization under Freshwater Wetlands in the Vicinity of the Coast and/or a variance request under the Red Book should be included in your application. CRMC engineers may seek additional information on site grading, wall design, etc.

An application for a new residential boating facility (dock) is required, including, PE stamped plans, public notice etc. The Army Corps (US ACE) will review through the CRMC public notice process. Section 1.3.1(D) dock standards apply.

Public Notice
Process FAQs

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) notifies direct abutters of projects that require a public notice. Public notices are also sent via USPS to abutters, and to the municipality in which the activity is proposed for posting at town hall. Additionally, the CRMC maintains a general email list comprised of federal, state, municipal officials and interested parties (this email mailing list is for every project that goes out to notice). Projects that require a public notice might include (but are not limited to) docks, marinas and other in-water facilities, activities associated with new subdivisions, aquaculture applications, dredging, infrastructure improvements, and applications requiring special exceptions or variances from the CRMC regulatory program.

The CRMC maintains several public notification lists (e.g., general, regulatory changes, application specific, etc.). If a notification list is not specified, CRMC staff will inquire which list is being requested, and will provide more information to assist you. You can request to be added by sending an email to cstaff1@crmc.ri.gov, or call our office at (401-783-3370).

Regarding meeting notifications, file-specific mailing lists are created upon receipt of public comments as a result of the public notice. This list is used for the specific application meeting notifications, and is separate from the other mailing lists mentioned above.

There are some circumstances in which a public notice will be sent for Category A applications, such as dock applications.

Shoreline Public
Access FAQs

“A public right-of-way (ROW) to the shore is a parcel of land over which the public has the right to pass on foot or, if appropriate, by vehicle, in order to access the tidal waters of Rhode Island. Accordingly, public ROWs can be used for a variety of activities. In some cases, public ROWs provide access for fishing and scenic overlooks while in other cases, public ROWs can be used to launch a boat.” —A citizen’s guide to assisting with the ROW process

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is the state agency tasked by the R.I. General Assembly with designating public rights-of-way to the shore. CRMC-designated rights-of-way are protected for public use in perpetuity. To find all CRMC-designated ROWs, go to http://www.crmc.ri.gov/publicaccess.html.

There are 230 CRMC-designated rights-of-way and nearly 400 coastal access points along the Rhode Island shoreline. For a map of all CRMC-designated rights-of-way, visit https://arcg.is/iDzme. To find a shoreline access point near you, visit www.shoreline-ri.com. This site, developed and maintained by Rhode Island Sea Grant with the cooperation of the RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), contains information on over 400 shoreline access sites across the state, including CRMC designated rights-of-way. You can search by location and activity, as well as find information on parking, permit requirements or fees, open hours, and more.

As of fall 2021, the CRMC has designated 230 rights-of-way in the state of Rhode Island. However, not all public shoreline access points in the state go through the CRMC designation process—cities, towns, nonprofit organizations, and the State of Rhode Island can also identify and maintain rights-of-way to the shore. To find a shoreline access point near you, visit www.shoreline-ri.com. For a map of all CRMC designated rights-of-way, visit https://arcg.is/iDzme.

Article I, Section 17 of the Rhode Island State Constitution states: “The people shall continue to enjoy and freely exercise all the rights of fishery, and the privileges of the shore, to which they have been heretofore entitled under the charter and usages of this state, including but not limited to fishing from the shore, the gathering of seaweed, leaving the shore to swim in the sea and passage along the shore; and they shall be secure in their rights to the use and enjoyment of the natural resources of the state with due regard for the preservation of their values…”

There are over 400 coastal access points for Rhode Islanders and visitors alike to visit the shoreline, from CRMC designated rights-of-way to state beaches. To find a shoreline access point near you, visit www.shoreline-ri.com. This comprehensive site includes information about parking, directions, any costs or permits required, photos of the site, and more. To find a CRMC-designated right-of-way near you, visit https://arcg.is/iDzme. CRMC designated rights-of-ways are open to the public for use throughout the year, however, visitors should obey all posted signage regarding parking and other related town ordinances in the municipality where the right-of-way is located.

Any coastal land below the mean high water line is considered public and can be used for these recreational purposes. However, in some cases, the upland beach area or land surrounding public access points can be privately owned, so it is important to observe posted signage and be respectful of neighboring properties. In cases where you are unsure of property ownership, please consult one of the resources listed above for additional information on the site you’d like to visit.

Mean high water (MHW) is the average of all high tides occurring during a National Tidal Datum Epoch (NDTE). The NTDE is an 18.6-year period used by scientists to calculate tidal averages. https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/datum_options.html. Because shorelines are constantly changing due to wind, waves, and human impacts, it is difficult to identify the mean high water line in the field—this line does not always follow the wrack/seaweed line, or the divide between wet and dry sand.

The CRMC does not create rights-of-way. There are six ways that public rights-of-way are established through the CRMC designation process: 1) Roadways which have been laid out, recorded, opened and maintained by a city or town council. 2) Highways by grant or use (R.I.G.L. Chapter 24-2). 3) Ways that have been approved by recordation of a subdivision plat. 4) Ways that have been offered to the public by dedication and accepted by public use or by official city or town action (implied dedication). 5) Highways that have been used by the public since time immemorial. 6) Ways that have been obtained by the public’s adverse use. (http://www.crmc.ri.gov/publicaccess/ROWCoastalBriefing.pdf)

The ROW Subcommittee, a standing CRMC subcommittee which meets monthly, aims to discover rights-of-way through staff-generated research, or with the participation of a municipality, community group, homeowners association, non-profit organization, or individual. The first step in discovering and designating rights-of-way is to determine whether a site was suitable to go through the ROW designation process. This determination is made by conducting extensive research on the site’s history. This research is currently conducted by the CRMC in partnership with a municipality, and is no longer budgeted for CRMC staff alone.

Most recently, CRMC has worked with municipalities to generate a list of possible shoreline access points, which can be included in harbor management or comprehensive plans. The CRMC and legal counsel from the municipality can then conduct further legal research to collect evidence for the designation process. Community members may also submit potential ROW sites. If, after this initial research, CRMC legal counsel determines that enough legal documentation exists to start the evidentiary designation process, the ROW Subcommittee and CRMC staff will work with municipalities, legal counsel, and other stakeholders to continue to collect relevant evidence. Once all of this information is accumulated, the subcommittee will hold a public hearing to gather input from community members regarding the proposed ROW—the testimonies of these individuals is included as evidence to contribute to the designation process. These hearings can last hours, days, or even weeks depending on participation.

Following the public hearings, the ROW Subcommittee deliberates based on all of the evidence gathered throughout the process, and makes a decision in the form of a written recommendation on whether or not it can support the proposed ROW. This decision is forwarded to the full CRMC Council as a recommendation, where the Council deliberates over the ROW Subcommittee’s recommendation, however after the recommendation was received the full Council can only accept new evidence that was not previously or reasonably available during the evidentiary hearing process. The Council makes the final decision to approve each right-of-way, which, once approved, becomes a public site for all citizens to use in perpetuity.

The CRMC currently has no specific funding to support shoreline public access initiatives, relying on partnerships with municipalities, nonprofit organizations, and individuals to identify, designate, and maintain rights-of-way. The CRMC works with municipalities to generate a list of possible shoreline access points, which can be included in harbor management or comprehensive plans, at which point CRMC and legal counsel from the municipality can conduct further legal research to collect evidence for the designation process. Community members may also submit potential ROW sites. The CRMC also continuously seeks sources of funding to assist in the designation effort. For more information on the evidence collection process, visit http://www.crmc.ri.gov/publicaccess.html.

Once rights-of-way are designated by the CRMC, municipalities are strongly encouraged for maintaining the access point, but not all ROWs are maintained. To help with this effort, The CRMC provides marker posts and signage, which can be installed by Public Works departments. Rights-of-way are also maintained through the CRMC’s Adopt-an-Access program, where businesses, nonprofit organizations, community groups, or individuals will take responsibility for the upkeep of the ROW. Maintenance conducted by Public Works, municipalities, or Adopt-an-Access partners may include installing signage, holding cleanups, and keeping pathways clear. These partnerships between the CRMC and municipalities or community groups are essential for ensuring quality shoreline access points along the coast. Go to the CRMC web site for more info - http://www.crmc.ri.gov/publicaccess.html.

Any CRMC designated right-of-way is eligible to receive signage that can be installed by the municipality. This signage, which is the same at all CRMC-designated rights-of-way, helps visitors to easily identify the spot as a CRMC right-of-way. Maintenance of rights-of-way is left to the municipality in which the access point is located, so it is up to each town or city to install fencing and signage, designate parking, or other maintenance efforts.

Rights-of-way to the coast are not created, but instead are designated based on historic use of the shoreline access. Municipalities or community members can submit a right-of-way for CRMC designation at any point—there is no requirement for shoreline access points to be identified or designated in any specific period of time. However, if a site is being used by the public but is not formally designated, the CRMC encourages individuals or municipalities to begin the designation process as soon as possible to ensure that the site will be protected in perpetuity.

The CRMC welcomes public input throughout the right-of-way designation process. Community members can submit potential rights-of-way and associated research—this could take the form of anything from a photo of a possible site to legal research proving the historic use of the site. For rights-of-way with proposals in progress, people can provide additional comments and evidence during the hearing process. For more information on how to participate in the ROW designation process, please visit: www.crmc.ri.gov/publicaccess.

Obstructions of CRMC designated rights-of-way, including parked cars, structures, or natural materials, can be reported to the Coastal Resources Management Council. Leah Feldman, CRMC policy analyst, and Kevin Cute, CRMC marine resources specialist, work on shoreline public access issues across the state. You can email them at lfeldman@crmc.ri.gov or kcute@crmc.ri.gov, respectively, and put “ROW obstruction” in the subject of the email, or call CRMC offices at 401-783-3370.

The CRMC actively ensures that signage posted around designated rights-of-way is accurate, and that these rights-of-way remain open to access. Blocking designated CRMC rights-of-way is not permitted, and the CRMC does investigate and resolve blockages in partnership with the Attorney General’s office. Any potentially misleading signage or blockages at CRMC designated rights-of-way should be reported to the CRMC using the above contact information.

Though municipalities could designate rights-of-way on their own, submitting sites for CRMC designation ensures that shoreline access will be protected in perpetuity. The added layer of protection should be encouraging to municipalities invested in protecting and enhancing shoreline public access in their towns.

Once a site has been designated as a public ROW the CRMC prohibits any activities that would obstruct the public’s use of these sites. The CRMC also pursues legal actions against individuals that block or impede the public’s access at designated ROWs. In this manner, the CRMC protects and preserves these sites for the public’s use. Once a public ROW has been designated by the CRMC, it cannot be abandoned by a city or town without prior approval of the CRMC (R.I.G.L. 46-23-6.2). In addition, a public right-of-way that has not been designated by the CRMC, but is never-the-less a public way, cannot be abandoned without formal abandonment proceedings. Moreover, highways which have been designated to the public by the actions of a landowner or acquired by prescription, cannot be lost due to non-use and the public cannot lose its rights due to adverse possession. - (from Coastal Briefing: http://www.crmc.ri.gov/publicaccess/ROWCoastalBriefing.pdf)

Considering future generations of Rhode Islanders is critical when establishing new rights-of-way or maintaining existing access points. Based on current sea level rise predictions, shoreline public access in Rhode Island will likely be impacted, whether through increased flooding events, higher sea levels, or stronger and more frequent storm events. Specifically, the mean high water mark, which is used to demarcate public and private lands, will move over time, likely shifting landward and reducing the amount of space on the beach for the public to traverse. However, there is now a commission created by the R.I. General Assembly that will examine lateral access and work to decriminalize trespassing along the shoreline.

Post-Storm
FAQs

In response to hurricanes or major storm events, the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) will be administering emergency permits under Section 1.1.14 of its RI Coastal Program/Red Book.

The CRMC will be conducting emergency permitting for maintenance to allow property owners to restore what existed prior to the storm. The permits will be valid for 90 days and all work must be completed within that time.

Coastal residents of Rhode Island with storm-related property damage should contact the CRMC at 401-783-3370 or email cstaff1@crmc.ri.gov.

While the CRMC does not handle permitting for restoration of interior spaces, it does oversee structural and exterior damage pertaining to storm events. Property owners should also contact their local building authority.

Immediately post-storm, CRMC staff will be out in the field documenting storm-related structural and exterior damage to structures within its jurisdiction. This includes taking photos of site conditions. Any structures in CRMC Type 1 (conservation) waters that were damaged in the storm event will have to be assessed by staff on a case-by-case basis, as well as those with exposed septic (OWTS) systems. The CRMC will be coordinating with the staff at the R.I. Department of Environmental Management for OWTS determinations. All regular permitting activities will be temporarily suspended during the next two weeks, after which time the executive director will assess the permit load.

Stedman Government Center
Suite 116, 4808 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, RI 02879-1900
Voice 401-783-3370 • Fax 401-783-2069 • E-Mail cstaff1@crmc.ri.gov

RI SealRI.gov
An Official Rhode Island State Website