CRMC Board Known to Ignore Advice of Coastal Experts

Editor’s note: The following is a condensed version of the third story in a three-part series about environmental enforcement in Rhode Island. To read the full story, click here.

By ecoRI News staff

The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) has been criticized by both environmentalists and developers ever since it was created in 1971. Charged with managing development along Rhode Island’s 420 miles of coastline, including everything from private docks to waterfront hotels, it’s no surprise that both groups frequently butt heads about agency processes and decisions.

CRMC executive director Grover Fugate has been reporting to the agency’s board, now at 10 members, since 1986. In that time, CRMC has expanded its oversight to include planning, aquaculture, and public access to the shore, as well as policy development. Permitting, however, remains the agency’s most controversial function, as developers and environmentalists frequently clash.

Evidence that board members have listened to developers and politicians rather than staff experts is easy to find, including allowing subdivisions to be built in wetlands, development that would impact intertidal flats and freshwater creeks, and a seawall likely to cause more harm than good.

Conservation organizations have called for the CRMC board to be downgraded to an advisory role, letting in-house experts decide applications.