Islander named chairwoman of state’s coastal council
The primary responsibilities of the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council are “the preservation, protection, development and where possible the restoration of the coastal areas of the state via the issuance of permits for work with the coastal zone of the state.”
The CRMC creates regulations and plans that control the Rhode Island coastline from 200 feet inshore to three miles offshore.
Anne Maxwell Livingston, a longtime Jamestown resident, was appointed to the council by Gov. Lincoln Chafee in May. Shortly after her confirmation by the state Senate, Chafee named her chairwoman.
“The way it came about is that I saw Gov. Chafee at a social event before he was inaugurated,” she said. “I told him that I would like to serve on a statewide board. He mentioned the CRMC. I told him that it sounded exciting but that I didn’t know anything about science. He said it was OK and that he’d let me know. He called several months later and asked if I still wanted to do that. I said sure and that was it.”
Livingston was happy about her appointment to the CRMC, but she was less than enthusiastic when state Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed called to tell her that the governor might want Livingston to be council chairwoman. “I said I wasn’t interested because I’m new to this,” Livingston said. “She told me not to close my mind to it.”
That afternoon, the governor called and asked Livingston to chair the council. “I said, ‘Thank you, but no.’” She said that she didn’t feel comfortable because she had no experience on the board.
“Maybe after I served for a year or two, but not now,” she said. “The next day one of the governor’s staff called and said that the governor would really like me to be chair. At that point I said great, I would love to be chair.”
Livingston’s appointment had the potential to ruffle feathers among the existing council members, but that didn’t happen. “I think people understood that the governor wanted to have somebody new as chair,” she said.
“The governor never told me this but I’m pretty sure that he wanted a lawyer, which I am; somebody from a seaside community, which I am; and probably a woman, which I am,” Livingston said. “I think maybe most importantly he wanted somebody who was not too closely affiliated with either the conservation interests or development interests. Somebody who didn’t have a clear axe to grind on one side or the other.”
Livingston takes her new position at a time when the CRMC is faced with some critical issues including the beach erosion at Matunuck, wind turbines in the ocean, and penalties for violation of CRMC regulations.
Just prior to Livingston’s appointment, the CRMC enacted the Ocean Special Area Management Plan. Rhode Island is the first state in the country to pass this type of plan, and according to Livingston, she said it is like zoning for the ocean for possible uses like wind energy.
“It’s a big deal that Rhode Island is ahead on this,” she said, “and many people who are involved in this field want to set us up as an example of what can be done.”
“This is before my time, but we did it by having a very large number of stakeholders involved in the process, fishermen, yachtsmen, environmental organizations, wind people, Native Americans and all kinds of groups have been involved in this,” Livingston added. “We’re working on how to go forward on this. I’ll be involved with that.”
There are some issues that Livingston is personally interested in addressing during her time on the council.
“I’m interested in public rights of way to the water,” she said. “CRMC has jurisdiction over those and they’ve been working at it, but I just want to make sure that it’s not a forgotten issue. I’m also very interested in renewable energy and how we can move that forward.”
There were some unexpected challenges for Livingston as she chaired her first CRMC meeting. “The first meeting I chaired I hadn’t even met all of my fellow council members yet, so that was a little difficult,” she said. “Then I found out that we have contested matters in front of the CRMC where both sides are presenting, with lawyers on both sides. I, as chair, have to rule if one of the lawyers objects. It’s a quasi-judicial position. I had no idea that I was going to have to act as a judge. I am a lawyer, but I was not prepared for that.”
Livingston has been active in the Jamestown community for a number of years. She served as a member of the Tax Assessment Board of Review from 1993 to 2011, and has headed the Democratic Town Committee since last year. Livingston has been a tax professional with H&R Block since 2003.
“I’m very excited by the appointment, and I am very happy to serve the state of Rhode Island,” Livingston said. “I can tell you that in a little over a month now, I am extremely impressed by the devotion and professionalism and knowledge of the CRMC staff. I’m new to this but they are not, and they work extremely hard to do what’s best for the state of Rhode Island and for the coastline.”