New chapters of shoreline plan aim to help property owners assess climate risk

New chapters of shoreline plan aim to help property owners assess climate risk

The Westerly Sun

NARRAGANSETT — The developers of the new Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan, or SAMP, unveiled three chapters of the document at a public meeting Thursday at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography.

The newest plan, while based on the latest scientific data and tools, adheres to the same principles of transparency and extensive public consultation that were instrumental in the success of its predecessor, the Ocean SAMP, which made possible the construction of the Block Island Wind Farm.

Grover Fugate, Coastal Resources Management Council executive director, said that the Shoreline Change SAMP, also known as the Beach SAMP, is a guidance document that can be updated as new information becomes available. Chapters three, four and five of the seven chapters were discussed Thursday. With science and tools for adapting to climate change evolving so rapidly, the remaining chapters will be released at the end of the consultation process.

“The point of the Beach SAMP was to take a long-range look and see what climate change was doing to our shoreline, what it might do to our shoreline, and then how do you adapt to those new conditions,” he said.

Grants awarded following Superstorm Sandy funded the development of new tools to forecast the effects of sea level rise, storm surge and erosion on Rhode Island’s 21 coastal communities. Fugate described the tools as among the most advanced in the country.

“We have the capacity now in this state that is unmatched by any other state,” he said. “Most federal agencies don’t even come close to the capacity that we have right now to look at these situations and see what can occur.”

The plan’s challenge is to educate homeowners about the risks of living on the coast. “The other thing that we’re very concerned about is the issue of risk, the identification of risk, letting people understand that risk and allowing them to make these risk-based decisions so they have no regrets,” Fugate said.

He reviewed the data and tools used to calculate how coastal communities will be affected by storm surge and sea level rise in the future. Researchers used a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration scenario of a 7-foot sea level rise with a 100-year storm surge.

Tiffany Smythe of the Coastal Resources Center presented Chapter Four of the plan, which addresses hazards to the natural environment, homes, businesses and public facilities. “An example from one of one of the sections is a Beach SAMP analysis which found that Matunuck and Misquamicut, as well as Barrington, Warren and Bristol, are particularly exposed to the combined effects of storm surge, sea level rise and coastal erosion,” she said.

Fugate discussed the fifth chapter, which contains new regulatory proposals that will be incorporated into the guidance the new document will provide to builders, homeowners and municipalities. A five-step process will be added to the CRMC’s permitting process. It includes evaluations of the projected life of a structure, the capacity to move large-scale projects around on a lot in order to accommodate marsh migration, and a design evaluation that accounts for the location of the property on a floodplain.

“This is really a risk assessment process that’s being built into the permitting process,” Fugate said. “We will still have our standard permit process, but what we’re doing now is providing information to people to make a risk assessment on these decisions and then to give them the information based on the risk they want to assume to build to a future condition.”

The 30-day public comment period on the new plan opened Thursday. It will likely be modified before it receives final approval. People interested in reading the SAMP or commenting on its contents can go to:



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