Ocean SAMP Celebrates Success after 5 years

By Shaun Kirby | Courtesy of RICentral

NARRAGANSETT—“When this process began, no one was confident that it would work,” said Ken Payne of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography on the Ocean Special Area Management Plan. Five years later, the collaboration between numerous stakeholder groups has developed a policy document which has helped facilitate the responsible use of Rhode Island’s waters and given decision makers a greater understanding of the environment, from fishing activity to bird migrations off the state’s coast.

“Planning is a form of social learning, and those who participate in the process come out of it knowing far more than they did than when it started,” said Payne. “That collective wisdom can be an asset in making things happen.”

The Ocean SAMP has most prominently been a guide for the state and offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind

The Ocean SAMP has most prominently been a guide for the state and offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind as the construction of the Block Island wind farm moves forward.

On Tuesday evening, stakeholders celebrated the Ocean SAMP’s progress after five years of data gathering, regulatory research, and tough conversations about how waters off the south coast of Rhode Island should be used fairly.

Since its inception and acceptance by the state and the federal government in 2011, the Ocean SAMP has brought together professionals from a variety of disciplines and industries, from local fisherman to scientists studying bird and lobster populations, to researchers and Narragansett Tribe leaders uncovering ancient human landscapes now submerged on the continental shelf.

“People ask why would [the state] want to engage in marine spatial planning?” said Grover Fugate, Executive Director of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). “It comes down to, who do you want to control your destiny? In terms of the science and uses and what we wanted to protect, the state took the role in setting forth a plan of where they wanted to see development go, rather than reacting to proposals.”

“When you are in a reactive mode, you are not very successful.”

The Ocean SAMP has most prominently been a guide for the state and offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind as it has gone through a painstaking permitting and regulatory process. After much deliberation with agencies such as CRMC and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), as well as scientists and fishermen, the wind project now has its foundations in the water and is employing more than 300 workers at ports in Quonset and Providence as it constructs massive turbines to generate power offshore.

“There are a lot of challenges, and I don’t think this project would have succeeded without all the planning and hard work that went into the Ocean SAMP,” said Aileen Kenney, VP of Permitting and Environmental Affairs at Deepwater Wind.


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Jeffrey Grybowski, Chief Executive Officer of Deepwater Wind, discusses the value of marine spatial planning and the role of the Ocean SAMP at the 2015 Baird Sea Grant Science Symposium.

Watch entire<a href=”http://livestream.com/universityofrhodeisland/seagrantsymposium”> LIVECAST </a>