...to preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders
CRMC celebrates 40 years of federal program approval, authority under Federal CZMA
June 1, 2018, Wakefield - The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council is celebrating 40 years of federal approval for its coastal program, and the state and federal authority that comes with that approval.
The CRMC was created in 1971 by the Rhode Island General Assembly, and a year later, the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) was passed. It is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office for Coastal Management, and provides for the management of the nation’s coastal resources by balancing economic development with environmental conservation. This mirrors the CRMC’s goal and credo:
“...to preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, restore the coastal resources of the state for this and succeeding generations through comprehensive and coordinated long-range planning and management designed to produce the maximum benefit for society from such coastal resources; and that the preservation and restoration of ecological systems shall be the primary guiding principal upon which environmental alteration of coastal resources shall be measured, judged and regulated."
The CZMA encourages states to take a leading role in the management of their coastal regions, and one way states can do this is through the requirement that various federal activities “reasonably likely” to affect any land or water use or natural resource of the coastal zone be consistent with a state’s approved coastal zone management program.
Before those activities can occur, federal agencies or applicants for federal approvals or assistance must submit a federal consistency determination to the state coastal management agency, stating that activity will be conducted consistent with that state’s federally-approved coastal management program. This process gives the state a valuable opportunity to evaluate proposed federal activities that affect the coastal zone and ensure that the activities meet the state coastal management policies and requirements.
The CRMC’s Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Program (Red Book) was approved by NOAA in 1978, and since that time, federal activities impacting Rhode Island coastal resources or uses have been subject to the consistency provisions in section 307 of the CZMA. The goal of the federal consistency process is to maintain a balance between state coastal zone management programs and federal activities.
The consistency process has become an important step for ensuring federal activities respect Rhode Island's valuable coastal zone. The agency responsible for overseeing implementation of the RICRMP generally and federal consistency in particular, is the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).
Federal actions subject to this process include:
In 1990 the Coastal Zone Reauthorization Amendments (CZARA) amended the CZMA to clarify that federal consistency applies when any federal activity, regardless of location, affects any coastal use or resource, broadening the scope of review for states to include federal activities that result in indirect effects on the coastal zone.
“Because it’s based on effects, not geographic boundaries, and there are no absolute exemptions from its requirements, the federal consistency requirement allows the CRMC to more thoroughly protect Rhode Island’s coastal uses and resources, and expands our jurisdiction beyond state waters,” CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate said. “The scope of the federal consistency ‘effects test’ can help protect entire ecosystems, as well as individual resources and uses.”
For example, if any activity is to occur outside the coastal zone (outside of the state's waters or inland coastal zone boundary), but will affect coastal water quality, habitat, or wetlands, and that activity involves some form of federal action, then it is subject to the federal consistency requirement and the enforceable policies of the RICRMP. In addition, a federal activity taking place outside of Rhode Island, which affects any coastal use or resource of Rhode Island, is subject to the consistency requirement.
More importantly, this is the authority on which the CRMC relies to apply the R.I. Ocean Special Area Management Plan’s (Ocean SAMP) enforceable policies to wind development projects now being proposed in federal waters.
“This is one of the primary reasons the Ocean SAMP was developed – to give the state input into federal decisions occurring offshore in federal waters,” Fugate said. “These wind projects have the potential to impact a wide range of uses and resources (fisheries, navigation, marine fish and mammal populations), and it’s vital that the CRMC be able to weigh in on these developments on behalf of Rhode Island.”