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RI Coastal Resources Management Council preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

In accordance with notice to members of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council’s Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan (Beach SAMP) subcommittee, a meeting of the subcommittee was held on Monday, October 19, 2015 at 4 p.m. at CRMC offices, Oliver Stedman Government Center, Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, R.I.

Members Present
Anne Maxwell Livingston, Chair
Paul Beaudette
Don Gomez
Michael Hudner

Staff Present
Grover Fugate, CRMC Executive Director
John Longo, Esq. CRMC Assistant Legal Counsel
James Boyd, CRMC

Others Present
Teresa Crean, URI CRC

Call to order. A. Livingston called the meeting to order at 4:05 p.m.

Item 1. Approval of previous meeting minutes– M. Hudner motions approval; seconded by D. Gomez and approved unanimously.

Item 2. Update on Beach SAMP activities – G. Fugate discussed future and potential funding sources in process with the subcommittee. T. Crean and G. Fugate then briefed the subcommittee on recent Beach SAMP presentations made, most recently one for the EC4, as well as municipal workshops/training with the Towns of Narragansett and Block Island (this coming Thursday), with others planned for all of the Washington County municipalities. The municipal workshops have been to walk town officials and others through STORMTOOLS and some other the other tools available, as well as some adaptation strategies. Some are easy, some difficult, but that’s part of the outreach campaign through HUD that CRC has to do for this grant, G. Fugate said. T. Crean told the subcommittee that having the group of state agencies at the training will serve as a resource for the towns, and at the Narragansett meeting, all of the town officials were present (and it was the day Hurricane Joaquin was coming up the coast). The agenda asks the municipality to share with us their experiences, she said. The group developed 100 strategies for adaptation, and we took out 10 to vet them through these towns, T. Crean said. In Narragansett, for example, she said, the town wanted to discuss adaptation strategies for Boston Neck Road, which is vulnerable to sea level rise, storm events and flooding. G. Fugate told the subcommittee that because of the CRMC’s permit activities, the Council is very aware of the decisions these towns have to make. But because of our connections with the universities and other institutions, we have expertise they don’t, he said. Municipalities don’t have the ability to assimilate this information, so it’s going to be an ongoing issue, he said. There’s a lot of turnover of town councils, and we’re even having difficulty with Statewide Planning, and it’s something we as a state need to overcome, G. Fugate said. Subcommittee members agreed turnover was an issue, as well as lack of funding and resources.

D. Gomez said that the film, “Shored Up” was great, and that a similar vehicle might be effective in educating a wide audience. M. Hudner said he agreed that everyone has a stake in this, and added that in his experience, complicated ideas that have their own language need someone to communicate them. G. Fugate said the problem is, it’s not happening tomorrow, so we’re trying to address the policy, but when people realize the magnitude of the’s usually too late. For example, our new estimates for sea level rise are at 7 feet, G. Fugate said. To many, it’s someone else’s problem.

A. Livingston said that the CRMC has the maps at its disposal, so there are striking visuals. She wondered if instead of them making that connection, is there a way to say, Charlestown is looking at a new fire station, and how do we tell them? T. Crean said that that’s something the SAMP team is working on, and the team learned from the North Kingstown pilot about the nuances of what we say. Fr example, she said, “Impacted” versus “exposed.” G. Fugate said that one of the greatest values is that when towns start to do capital budgets and infrastructure plans, if they want to be more resilient, they will use these tools. An example, he said, is shoreline parallel roads.

P. Beaudette commented that nothing is thought of in the long-term. We think quarters, and other countries think in generations, he said. We need to break it down into shorter blocks. Talking in terms of the year 2100 just makes people glaze over, he said, adding that the 25-yr cycle is something people can better grasp. G. Fugate agreed, and said that relative terms are important, too. For example, he said, if we’re expecting a one-foot sea level rise by 2030, we need to compare it to something. NOAA’s modeling is based on linear assumptions, and there’s talk there might be a doubling effect each decade, G. Fugate said. G. Fugate told the subcommittee that there is new policy he’s working on for P&P - we used to say 3-5 feet of sea level rise by 2100, but we’re moving to a design life theory and trying to associate that with SLR, he explained. What Jim Boyd has done in that policy is suggest we use the high range for 2030, 2050, 2100, G. Fugate said. A. Livingston said she thinks we need to understand the insurance better, and that people will react when their rates go up. G. Fugate said that if the rates become actuarial, then private property values plummet, that will have a real impact.

T. Crean told the subcommittee that the team also had the “Shored Up” viewing and panel discussion as the last stakeholder meeting until 2016. P. Beaudette asked if there was any K-12 curriculum for this topic, and T. Crean said not as of this date. P. Beaudette commented that the mechanism is already there for science teachers, and there’s a group of environmental educators, and said he was interested in the possibilities for education.

Item 3. Discussion of SAMP revised Table of Contents – G. Fugate told the subcommittee that this version had been fleshed out a bit more, and Chapter 6 starts to telegraph where we’re headed. The California Coastal Commission just came out with 400-page guidance document, he said, and the CRMC has borrowed some pieces of it. The guidance goes through a process that leaves design up to developers, taking SLR, coastal erosion, etc., into account, and they have to show it in applications, G. Fugate said. It puts the burden of proof on the development community, he said. Chapter 5 is directed at local and state agencies; Chapter 7 is a collection of adaptation strategies, G. Fugate said, so meat of the SAMP document will fall between Chapters 3 and 6. A. Livingston asked why the word resilience was not in the table of contents. G. Fugate said that was a good point, and that the word is abused quite a bit these days; but it was in there. A. Livingston questioned whether the zoning for repairing structures would be pretty standard, and G. Fugate replied that no, not with the SAMP. J. Boyd told the subcommittee that the draft legislative language to address emergency permitting process at the local level addressed physical changes post-storm event, and keep things moving (ex., setbacks for when land is no longer there).

P. Beaudette expressed that there was concern that the EC4 in its current form doesn’t have the power to function as it did under the previous administration. G. Fugate said that information would be provided to all who come to the CRMC, regardless of the EC4 function, so the CRMC is not relying on another entity to disseminate information.

D. Gomez said he would like to see an executive summary, and make a strawman out of the table of contents, and also see the chapters with the heavier content. M. Hudner asked for some clarification – is the CRMC hoping to put some of the duty in the hands of the municipalities? G. Fugate said they would be paying for it, so to some extent, yes. For example, he said, a property owner with a beachfront lost it from a storm and wants it restored, and the town isn’t sure it makes financial sense. It will cost $60 million to protect Matunuck Beach Road, he said. What we’re trying to do is get development community to tell us what they are doing to consider these things, he said. G. Fugate added that these tools are available to Rhode Island that show them the possibilities.

Item 4. Discussion of SAMP Introduction – T. Crean told the subcommittee that, based on comments received, some edits had been made to the draft. D. Gomez commented that adding Super Storm Sandy in there dates the document a little, and bringing neighbors to the table sooner would be advisable. The stakeholder process language could be stronger, he said, and quantifying things a bit more would help.
P. Beaudette commented that adding relative terms - for example, how much SLR in the term of a mortgage, would be helpful. It’s a visual thing, and no one is going to think about it, or do anything, he said. G. Fugate said that Rhode Island is projected to see one foot of SLR in the next 20 years, so in the lifetime of that mortgage, people will have significant issues.

Item 5. Discussion of public comments received (public process, table of contents) – D. Gomez said that comments two and five were interesting. G. Fugate said that California put a lot of emphasis on public access, but it’s good for the team and subcommittee to consider because when people try to do shoreline protection, public access is essentially lost. T. Crean commented that she had three notes: 1. Public access in the face of sea level rise – now incorporated into guiding principles in the Introduction and will keep it in mind; 2. Discussing retreat, not letting new development or rebuilding in at-risk areas – will keep it in mind; 3. Debris management – not really under CRMC jurisdiction. P. Beaudette commented that in terms of the EC4, it did impact DEM and RIRRC, and it’s a question that needs to be raised at a higher level. G. Fugate commented that he liked what California was forcing developers to do – if you can’t meet the design life of this project under the current scenarios, need to think of a relocation plan in the case you need to do it.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:30 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,
Laura Dwyer


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