The prospects for energy development off the shores of Rhode Island just got a boost, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) approved the state’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP). The plan updates and improves review processes for offshore projects, the NOAA said, taking wildlife and ecosystem protection into consideration while integrating potential renewable-energy development with fishing, transportation and recreation along Rhode Island’s coast and in the federal waters.
With the approval, Rhode Island becomes the first sate with an ocean management program within its coastal management program. This means that state policies regarding habitats, resources and possible energy project sites, such as offshore wind farms, as well as activities like fishing, could be extended to federal waters.
The plan covers some 1,467 square miles, including parts of Block Island and Rhode Island sounds, and the Atlantic Ocean. The plan took two years to develop by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council with input from many other state, federal, tribal, academic and local organizations, as well as members of the public.
Ocean SAMP will provide researchers and prospective project developers with information on Rhode Island’s offshore ecosystems, and covers topics such as offshore energy development, marine transportation, cultural resources and climate change, the NOAA said.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee said the Ocean SAMP will create “a plan for using ocean resources to create and sustain jobs, help our state build renewable energy, and continue to preserve the historic fishing, transportation, recreation and other uses of the ocean that Rhode Islanders so treasure. This plan will help our state reach its 15 percent renewable energy goal and continue to protect the coastal areas that drive tourism to our state.”