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RI Coastal Resources Management Council

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

CRMC developing sea level rise regulations

10/4/07, WAKEFIELD – The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council is currently developing new regulations to address sea level rise, a side effect of climate change and global warming, which scientists have declared is already becoming a major concern.

The CRMC’s Planning and Procedures subcommittee on September 24 authorized Executive Director Grover Fugate to seek public input on the proposed new Red Book Section 145 – Climate Change and Sea Level Rise. After that time, the proposed section will return to the subcommittee and the full Council for a recommendation to begin rule-making. The CRMC will also be holding a workshop on the proposed regulations on October 12 at 11 a.m. at the Oliver Stedman Government Center, Room 232.  John King, Professor of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, will also be speaking to the Council on October 9 on the issue of sea level rise at the semi-monthly meeting at 6 p.m. at the Narragansett Bay Commission board room. RI Sea Grant and the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center helped the CRMC to facilitate the synthesis of the science behind the proposed regulations and formulate policy options.

Climate change refers to fluctuations in the Earth’s climate system – a result of natural and manmade causes – and is evidenced largely by rising global temperatures, increasing weather extremes which result in more frequent floods and droughts, and rising sea level. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) 2007 report states a potential rise in sea level of 18-59 centimeters by 2100 (depending on the scenario chosen). State experts have agreed that for planning purposes, Rhode Island should expect a minimum rise of 3-5 feet by 2100. The actual sea level rise may be higher than that, however, if greenhouse gases are not reduced far before that time. 

The proposed regulations will be a first for the state, and will not only explain scientific findings on sea level rise and provide historic data supporting this idea, but will serve as a tool for the CRMC and others to better manage development and related concerns taking future sea level rise into account. Sea level rise will result in more coastal flooding and erosion, damage to infrastructure and property, drinking water contamination from salt intruding into aquifers and compromised wastewater treatment facilities. A higher sea level will displace coastal populations and ultimately lead to the loss of recreation areas, public space and coastal wetlands. The proposed regulations will authorize the CRMC to develop and adopt policies and regulations needed to manage the state’s coastal resources and property and protect life and property from hazards resulting from the projected sea level rise. The Council, under these regulations, would also be authorized to work with the State Building Commissioner and to adopt freeboard calculations to determine new development guidelines.

“The CRMC will be in leader in creating the country’s first regulations to address sea level rise,” said CRMC Chairman Michael M. Tikoian. “Sea level rise is quickly becoming a real threat, and these regulations, once adopted, will allow the CRMC, as Rhode Island’s coastal resources steward, to protect our precious resources and the people who live on the coast.”

Rhode Island Sea Grant will also be holding a two-day symposium, the Sixth Annual Ronald C. Baird Sea Grant Science Symposium: Creating Vibrant Waterfronts in Rhode Island, on October 19 and 20 at the URI Bay Campus, which will also focus on sea level rise and coastal hazards.

”Considering sea level rise when assessing appropriately placed development, especially in the areas of upper Narragansett Bay, will be a vital tool for the CRMC as well as municipalities, their planners and developers,” said CRMC Executive Director Grover J. Fugate. “Having these regulations in place will allow the Council to determine which areas would be most susceptible to flooding, and to plan accordingly for the future.”

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

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