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

CRMC approves changes to shoreline protection regs

May 12, 2020, WAKEFIELD – The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) has approved sweeping changes to the Shoreline Protection section of the Red Book [Section 1.3.1(G)] in order to provide coastal property owners with alternatives to structural shoreline protection, including nonstructural and hybrid methods.

The amendments, which were approved by the Council at a meeting in April, include new and modified definitions associated with shoreline protection. Additional amendments throughout the rest of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Program (Red Book) have also been added to clarify or simplify existing language on policies and standards and to delete redundant text in an effort to streamline the section.

Traditional shoreline protection structures have included rip-rap or other revetments (large boulders or other large debris are placed at a slope to shield a property from waves), and sea walls (made with concrete), but these come at an environmental cost as well as a financial one. Traditional structural shoreline protection exacerbates erosion at its ends, often to the detriment of a neighboring property owner. And once they are installed, these hardened structures often result in the loss of whatever natural beach was present before, making public use and access difficult (or impossible).

Advancing technologies in the field of nonstructural shoreline protection prompted the CRMC to be clearer in its discouragement of hardened shoreline protection structures (it is already a prohibited activity) and to more strongly encourage the use of nonstructural methods. The regulations provide coastal property owners with more detailed definitions and specific examples of those methods and their benefits.

“The Council prefers nonstructural shoreline protection methods over all other shoreline protection methods for controlling erosion such as stabilization with vegetation and beach nourishment due to their effectiveness in preserving beaches, natural shoreline habitats and sediment dynamics,” the regulations state.

Definitions for hybrid shoreline protection, nonstructural shoreline protection, and structural shoreline protection provide clear distinctions and explanations, as well as which structures or methods would fall under each category. Clear standards are outlined in the regulations in regards to hybrid shoreline protection methods. Rip-rap and seawall definitions were clarified.

Under the section detailing requirements for applicants, a new item was added stating that applicants are required to obtain all other necessary local, state, and federal permits, except when preempted by federal regulations (though the Council can waive the requirement as a prerequisite to issuing an assent).

The changes designate that the CRMC executive director determines if an application for any shoreline protection (new or alteration) meets the requirements of an administrative assent, and that the executive director determines that if they have not or if a substantive objection is filed, if that application is then considered before the full Council for a decision. Also under these changes, only the executive director may grant emergency assents, and those findings will be public record.

Coastal hazard analysis requirements, which exist in the regulations, must now also include second story additions and decks of residential, commercial, industrial, or beach pavilion structures. There is also a new minimum design criteria table for residential and limited recreational docks, piers, and float design standards.

Treatment of stormwater and sewage has been updated to reference the RI Department of Environmental Management’s Stormwater Management and Design and Installation Standards Manual ( developed by the two agencies.

Where structural shoreline protection is proposed, the Council will require the applicant exhaust all other possible alternatives, including relocation of the proposed structure to be protected, landward re-contouring of the shoreline to create an eased slope, and hybrid and nonstructural shoreline protection. Where structural shoreline protection might be authorized, the regulations provide clarity in the types and locations where they might be appropriate. New shoreline protection is to be designed and built with public access impacts minimized to the maximum extent possible, and the CRMC can require on-site public access to a similar type and scope to any existing access that might be impeded or impacted by a project.

“As an agency, the CRMC is currently piloting hyrbrid and non-structural shoreline approaches, as evidenced by our ongoing project at Rose Larisa Park in East Providence,” said Jeffrey Willis, CRMC deputy director. “We hope to learn more about these alternative methods through projects like this, and encourage applicants and municipalities to use them.”

For more information on the Rose Larisa shoreline adaptation project, go to


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Suite 116, 4808 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, RI 02879-1900
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