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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 Friday, September 9, 2016 at 2 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

Staff Present
Grover Fugate, CRMC Executive Director
Anthony DeSisto, Esq., CRMC Legal Counsel
James Boyd, CRMC

Others Present
Teresa Crean, URI CRC
Malcolm Spaulding, URI GSO


Call to order. A. Livingston called the meeting to order at 2:05 p.m.

Item 1. Approval of previous meeting minutes - The minutes were approved unanimously.

Item 2. Discussion of CERI (Coastal Environmental Risk Index) – G. Fugate provided the Subcommittee with an update on where the SAMP team is with this tool. CERI has a lot of applications at the local level, as well as other state agencies, he said. The team started off just looking at sea level rise, but was able to expand on that, in addition to simple maps. After Sandy, we started to look at, for example, the FEMA flood maps, G. Fugate said. The new maps minimized the risk to Southern RI coastal areas. We challenged FEMA, and we suggested that we could look at the real floodplain, and we did that and when it became clear FEMA was wrong, they distanced themselves from us, he told the Subcommittee. G. Fugate also discussed the problems with the federal flood insurance program, and Biggert-Waters Act. P. Beaudette asked if people living in the Jerusalem or East Matunuck area could use this information. For example, he said, a homeowner is inland a quarter of a mile, and their insurance company says they’re fine, does CERI show otherwise? G. Fugate answered yes. D. Gomez asked what the application for CERI was - the individual town building or zoning departments? G. Fugate said yes, or the state building code. J. Boyd said that people can voluntarily build higher, and now people can build up to 5 feet higher than base flood elevation, and it doesn’t trigger a variance.

G. Fugate said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, after Superstorm Sandy, took save points with information all along the coast in the Northeast (18,000 in region, 1,000 in RI). G. Fugate said that the state hasn’t had a major storm event since 1938, so we don’t know the true magnitude of something like that storm in today’s context. You have to build to withstand those events, and that’s what we’re trying to teach people to do, he said. A. Maxwell Livingston commented that most of the buildings and residences we’re talking about being vulnerable are older or existing construction, not new.

G. Fugate said that STWAVE gave us a color-coded look at waves and overwash of the coastal areas. Now we have maps flooding from a 25, 50 and 100-year storm event, and we also have updated shoreline change maps, he said.

We have historic erosion data, the exponential rate of shoreline change plus uncertainty, and we get the projected shoreline change as of 2100, G. Fugate said. According to these estimates, and with local and state setbacks, it would be very difficult for many people to rebuild if they lost their structure, he said.

M. Spaulding said that with CERI, you take wave damage or wind and pick the one that’s larger, and use that to make decisions. Wind is a factor, though, and some places wind damage is worse than waves, and vice versa. G. Fugate said that through a GIS platform, the capabilities are immense, and we’re able to add much more data.

G. Fugate explained to the Subcommittee that with CERI, damage functions vary, based on structure type (ex. single story with no basement). The SAMP team was able to add E-911 data to add to the tool, and add to structure type function. Then the 100-yr storm and 100-yr storm with 5 feet of sea level rise elements were added, as well as assessed damage with color map. There’s a student at URI and he can take a structure and show how it will fall apart, G. Fugate said. M. Spaulding said users of CERI can change the view, and even the types of homes based on roof shape. The goal is to have data in CERI for all of the state’s coastal communities. For the pilot, the team chose Warwick because the upper Bay community is well-populated and has a lot of risk, M. Spaulding said. G. Fugate said CERI was done for Charlestown, too. Another thing CRMC took issue with regarding FEMA’s maps is the dunes, he said. If dunes are intact, erosion is lessened; but with eroded, damage is worse, he said. P. Beaudette asked how the SAMP team and the CRMC could address any reluctance to adopt this and other tools. G. Fugate said we are often convincing people, and just have to keep showing the tools to decision-makers.

D. Gomez asked if in reality, would the cities and towns do anything about this? G. Fugate said that the Beach SAMP document would have a chapter and policies that will be in there to assist with these applications. Steps for addressing coastal hazards in coastal development planning: 1. Establish project design life; 2., determine how acting forces may constrain the project site and access; 3. examine how project and acting forces may impact coastal resources and public access over design life; 4. identify design alternatives and/or minimize impact and risk to project; 5. finalize project design and submit permit application.

D. Gomez expressed concern that despite all of this information, people would still resist these ideas. T. Crean said that one of the SAMP chapters would be focused on guidance for municipalities, so we can address the local zoning issues.

G, Fugate also briefed the Subcommittee on the effort by the USACE to provide incentives for homeowners to elevate their structures, post-Sandy, by offering a 65 percent cost-shore for 350 structures in Westerly and Charlestown ($53 million project). G. Fugate said he’s currently in talks with the Governor’s Office to make it more attractive to people.

G. Fugate told the Subcommittee that because of our expertise, the CRMC has also been asked to work to develop a watershed model of the Pawtuxet River (basically STORMTOOLS for the river watershed), so that will also be in development.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:35 p.m.


Respectfully Submitted,
Laura Dwyer


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

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