Oct. 22 Public Meeting: The Fate of RI’s Coastal Wetlands

Public meeting focuses on adaptive strategies to aid in the preservation of threatened coastal wetlands

What happens to coastal communities as rising seas and coastal flooding gradually submerge our salt marshes – those marshy areas that serve critical ecosystem functions? A public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 22, 2014 from 6 – 8 p.m. at the URI Narragansett Bay Campus, Coastal Institute (Building #6 at http://www.gso.uri.edu/about-gso/campus-map). This public stakeholder meeting is planned to explore this issue, as well as the collaborative efforts of both state and community-based options that may be able to address climate change impacts to our coastal wetlands. In light of these issues, Governor Chafee has proclaimed the month of October as “Salt Marsh Month.”

The October 22 public meeting is a regular gathering of the stakeholder group that is participating in the Rhode Island Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan (Beach SAMP) public process. The University of Rhode Island (Graduate School of Oceanography) Coastal Resources Center (CRC) and the Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program is facilitating the development of the Beach SAMP on the behalf of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), the state’s coastal zone management program administrator. The SAMP is a CRMC effort to gather new data and develop tools and techniques so local communities can tailor the approaches to meet their own needs in terms of addressing climate change impacts such as flooding and erosion, key aspects of major storms and encroaching sea level rise. The CRMC recently issued a 30-day public notice to adopt the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) maps. It can be accessed here: http://www.crmc.ri.gov/regulations_proposed/2014_1125_CRMP_110and210.pdf

“Rhode Island has already lost 50 percent of its coastal wetlands to development over the last 200 years and we’re now seeing continued loss due to sea level rise;” said Pam Rubinoff, a CRC coastal manager and Sea Grant extension agent specializing in climate change adaptation. “Planning is needed to devise adaptive strategies to protect the remaining coastal wetlands, as science shows these lands play important roles in slowing and buffering coastal flood waters and providing critical fish and wildlife habitat, among other benefits.”

Scheduled speakers are:

  • Wenley Ferguson (Save the Bay): Current and projected status of coastal wetlands
  • Kevin Ruddock (The Nature Conservancy): Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM)
  • James Boyd, (CRMC): Summary of SLAMM results and management strategies
  • Caitlin Chaffee (CRMC): Using SLAMM to assist coastal wetland restoration efforts
  • Art Ganz, President of the Salt Ponds Coalition and Harvey Perry, Westerly Land Trust: using the SLAMM data to assist local organizations in conservation effort

The public is encouraged to attend. Refreshments will be available/ RSVPs to attend are required at beachSAMP@etal.uri.edu. For more information about the Beach SAMP visit www.beachsamp.org.