2011-05-05 / News

Shores association welcomes CRMC staff to island

By Tracey O’Neill

The Jamestown Shores Association held its monthly meeting last week, welcoming guest speakers from the state Coastal Resource Management Council in a relaxed question-and-answer forum.

In attendance for CRMC at the April 27 meeting were Deputy Director Jeffrey M. Willis and Laura Ricketson-Dwyer, the council’s public educator and information coordinator. Presenting a view of CRMC in a nutshell, Ricketson- Dwyer walked those in attendance through a concise outline of the regulatory agency, its policies and procedures with oversight for much of coastal Rhode Island.

Calling forth Jamestown’s historical ties to the agency, Willis storied the genesis of CRMC, designed to define, protect and preserve the coastal environment.

Founded in 1971, the Coastal Resource Management Council grew from the concern of a small group of citizens after the coastal devastation caused by Hurricane Carol in 1954, as well as pending litigation filed by the Commerce Oil Corporation, which was interested in building an oil refinery in Jamestown.

Initiated by William Miner, a Jamestown resident and abutter who formed the Jamestown Protective Association, the litigation spanned seven years, ending in 1960 with no refinery being built on Narragansett Bay.

Agencies such as Save the Bay and CRMC came afterwards following many years of mapping out the defined areas of regulatory power over coastal areas.

Localizing and defining issues specific to the town, Willis discussed key points of possible interest for the group. “For Jamestown, issues I hear a lot are harbor management, harbor management planning and aquaculture,” he said.

“Harbor management plans are a requirement of this agency for the 21 coastal communities. There is a dual jurisdiction element that’s involved,” he added.

The state is mandated through legislation to manage the waters of the state and the activities that occur, with the dual aspect passing specific issues to the cities and towns. Due to this duality, CRMC works with the municipalities, including Jamestown, to develop consistent harbor management plans.

CRMC holds regulatory power over tidal waters extending from the territorial sea limit, 200 feet inland from any coastal feature. Falling under this purview are coastal dunes, beaches, wetlands and many other features. The waters are distinguished in six categories ranging from pristine conservation areas to commercial and industrial ports.

Ricketson-Dwyer outlined the many functions of the agency, including management, policy and program development, education and public information sharing.

Also for discussion was the growing aquaculture movement in and around Jamestown. Since 1996, the CRMC has seen aquaculture growth, with Jamestown being in the forefront, increasing its numbers on a consistent basis, but Willis explained that aquaculture is not yet considered an economic driver. Rhode Island’s aquaculture movement is primarily that of oysters.

With aquaculture suited to coastal pond areas due to salinity factors and protective aspects during long winters, whether it is for oysters or quahogs, there are issues that have to be addressed. Foremost, the pond areas, also seen as a prime spot for recreational activities, can become a contentious area of debate. CRMC has implemented policy concessions to deal with dual use and create a balanced approach to allow for aquaculture farming, as well as recreational swimming and boating activities.

Extending the meeting and responding to questions from the audience, Willis was quick to provide education and information to the members. Touching upon subjects ranging from aquaculture and preservation to national security, the interactive session was met with a congenial spirit.

John Pagano inquired as to ownership and overseer of the state’s water systems or coastal waters and the purview of the federal government. In answer, pointing to the partnership between CRMC and the federal level coastal agencies, Willis explained the regulatory hierarchy. Navigational Servitude is the term that explains the relationship between the two, with CRMC regulating the state’s waters and the federal government taking precedent for national security purposes.

Prior to the CRMC Q-and-A, Ann Gagnon, co-president of the JSA, opened the meeting with the board moving quickly through its administrative agenda.

Gagnon commended the town Parks and Recreation Department and Director Bill Piva for supporting the efforts of the Jamestown Conservation Commission in cleaning up the town’s beaches. “Approximately 60 to 70 people participated,” Gagnon said. “We need to keep an eye on our beaches.”

Several members weighed in offering suggestions for improvements. A collaborative meeting was scheduled with Piva to discuss beach litter prevention, parking issues and possible container plantings for aesthetic purposes.

The JSA was established in 1950, with a few dozen local residents recognizing the need for improved community involvement in preservation and conservation of the local flora. Now grown to 90 members, the organization and members continue to be active participants in local activities and community advocacy programs.

Speaking as to the mission of the organization, Gagnon reminded members in attendance to be aware and educated with regards to the town’s committees and commissions. “Our Town Council has workshops and meetings coming up,” she said. “Remember to attend and take part in what is going on in the town. There are meetings coming up with important issues like taxes.”

The next meeting of the Jamestown Shores Association is scheduled for Thursday, May 25.

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