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State Facts

Miles of Coast: 384

Coastal Population (2000): 1,052,567

Lead Coastal Management Agency: Coastal Resources Management Council

Approval Date: 1978

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Ocean and Coastal Management in Rhode Island


Walking along the beach near the Port of Galilee, RI.

Rhode Island's Coastal Program

Approved in 1978, the Rhode Island Coastal Management Program establishes a comprehensive program for managing coastal resources, primarily at the state level.  The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) was created by the Coastal Resources Management Act of 1971, one of the earliest pieces of state coastal management legislation. The CRMC is empowered with overseeing Rhode Island's Coastal Program, which includes planning, policy, permitting, enforcement, and coordination responsibilities. Rhode Island’s coastal zone encompasses the entire state, although the inland extent of the Coastal Program's regulatory authority is generally 200 feet inland from any coastal feature.

The Coastal Program is administered by a council who are appointed representatives of state and local government and the public, and a staff of professional engineers, biologists, environmental scientists, and marine resources specialists.  The Coastal Program also collaborates with other state agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Management, the Office of Administration Division of Planning, the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center, and the Historic Preservation Commission, in various aspects of coastal management.

Special area management plans (SAMPs) are an important component to Rhode Island's Coastal Program. SAMPS bring multiple partners together to achieve specific coastal management goals for a defined area such as facilitating the redevelopment of an urban waterfront (Metro Bay SAMP), or comprehensively planning for diverse ocean uses, including siting offshore energy facilities (Ocean SAMP).

Rhode Island’s National Estuarine Research Reserve

Located at the center of Narragansett Bay, the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 2,353 acres of land on Prudence, Patience, and Hope Islands and 1,591 acres of water adjoining the islands. The Reserve was designated in 1980. While Prudence Island has some permanent and seasonal inhabitants, both Patience and Hope islands are uninhabited. Hope Island is a major rookery for colonial wading birds.  The Reserve partners with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and the Prudence Conservancy to provide educational and volunteer opportunities.

Program Achievements

Ocean Special Area Management Plan

Salt Pond Regional Special Area Management Plan


Rhode Island Coastal Management Program — The website provides information on the Program including information on its permitting, coastal planning and technical assistance programs.

Rhode Island Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan (2010) — Rhode Island has developed a Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Plan that provides an assessment of priority conservation needs and guidance for nominating and selecting land conservation projects to OCRM's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program competition.

Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve — The Reserve’s website provides information on their many research, education, and stewardship activities.

Marine Protected Areas — Search for marine protected areas in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Coastal Nonpoint Program Conditional and Final Approval Documents — The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program encourages better coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone. The state received full approval in 2000.

Rhode Island Coastal Program Evaluation (2010) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of federally approved state coastal management programs.

Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Evaluation (2009) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of estuarine research reserves.

Rhode Island Coastal Zone Enhancement Program Assessment and Strategy (2011-2016) — Every five years, the Coastal Zone Management Act encourages states and territories to conduct self-evaluations of their coastal management programs to assess significant changes in the state’s coastal resources and management practices, identify critical needs, and prioritize areas for enhancement under the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program.

Contact Information for Rhode Island’s Programs

Coastal Resources Management Council
4808 Tower Hill Road
Stedman Building
Wakefield, RI 02879
(401) 783-3370

Narragansett Bay Reserve
55 South Reserve Drive
Prudence Island, RI 02872
(401) 683-6780