The Rhode Island CRMC – Why and When Do I Need It?

In Rhode Island, activities along the coast are regulated by a state agency called the Coastal Resources Management Council. That’s “CRMC” for short. The CRMC is tasked with preserving and protecting coastal areas through management plans and by the issuance of approvals for work in the council’s jurisdictional area. That area of jurisdiction is as follows:

“[T]he area extending from the territorial sea limit, 3 miles offshore, to two hundred feet inland from any coastal feature. In addition, natural features such as coastal beaches, dunes, barriers, coastal wetlands, cliffs, bluffs, and banks, rocky shores, and manmade shorelines all have an extended contiguous area of two hundred feet from their inland borders which is under the authority of the Council. Cultural features of historical or archaeological significance are also within the jurisdiction of the Council as required by the Federal Government.” http://www.crmc.ri.gov/aboutcrmc.html

The Coastal Resources Management Council carries out its functions through a staff of “professional engineers, biologists, environmental scientists, and marine resources specialists” and a council, made up of sixteen members, who are all appointed by the Governor for terms of three years. http://www.crmc.ri.gov/aboutcrmc.html

The CRMC council members preside over hearings and meetings that are open to the public, where members of the public are provided an opportunity to comment and be heard.

Why should property owners be concerned about the functions of the CRMC? There are two general categories in which a property owner may interact with the CRMC council and/or its staff. First, as the CRMC is “authorized to formulate policies and plans, to adopt regulations necessary to implement its various management programs,” a coastal property owner may find him or herself as the subject of a Cease & Desist and/or a Notice of Violation for alleged violations of these initiatives and programs. Second, a coastal property owner may need an approval from the CRMC for an activity on their property.

In either of these categories, the coastal property owner will benefit by working with an experienced environmental attorney.

A good example of how an experienced environmental attorney can assist in these cases occurs when CRMC staff participate in a pre-application meeting. Customarily, Coastal Resources Management Council permitting staff will conduct a review of relevant application materials for a project and a pre-application meeting is scheduled. Permitting staff focus on specific geographic areas of the state – an experienced environmental attorney will be prepared to address specific coastal issues during the pre-application meeting.

Working with an experienced and competent environmental consultant is also a necessity for matters before the CRMC. Hiring the right environmental attorney will set the coastal property owner up to a network of invaluable industry professionals. The CRMC designates particular coastal features, which form the basis for its jurisdiction. Both an environmental attorney and environmental consultant should be well versed in the regulatory language related to coastal features, in order to efficiently and successfully represent clients before the CRMC.

The attorneys at Desautel Law have a demonstrated history of practice before the CRMC council and staff, and coordinating with industry professionals.

To learn more about the CRMC and how Desautel Law can help with your matter before it, call us at 401.477.0023 today.

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