Fix The CRMC Now!

The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) was created fifty years ago, tasked with protecting our coastal resources taking into consideration the various economic and recreational interests who have a stake in its decisions. One would like to think that experts with education and experience in the field have the last word on these decisions, but the politically appointed council often ignore the expert advice from their own staff and legal counsel. A trio of bills before the legislature are aimed at fixing this problem. A recent column in the ProJo by Alex Kuffner shines a light on how the current arrangement has played out:

While staff typically have degrees and experience in engineering, coastal geography and related fields, there’s no requirement for council members to have relevant expertise. Appointees in recent years have included a liquor store owner/real estate agent, a dental hygienist and the head of a chain of physical therapy offices.

A special House commission, headed by former sate rep Deborah Ruggiero, studied the problems and came back with recommendations that include a position for a hearing officer to review contested cases. From her column earlier this month:

The recommendations of the CRMC Study Commission included hiring a hearing officer, written into the 2022-2023 state budget last July. The governor still has not appointed a hearing officer to the CRMC. This is important because permitting and enforcement cases should be heard before a hearing officer and not the politically appointed council – especially since the CRMC hasn’t always been able to convene a quorum, postponing meetings and decisions.

Of course the dental hygienists and liquor store owners may have been busy at home boning up on aquaculture and climate change and lost track of the time.

We are the Ocean State! Whether you swim in it, fish in it, live on it, grow oysters, eat oysters, or own any of the related coastal or maritime businesses so pivotal to our economy, these decisions are critical.

Please make a commitment this Earth Day to educate yourself on this topic. I’ll make it easy. Alex Kuffner’s piece in yesterday’s ProJo, “Lawmakers hear proposals to revamp CRMC” recaps the history of the problems and the proposed legislation. The most important item will be revamping the structure of the agency:

The most expansive of the bills would completely revamp the agency by getting rid of the structure that many say is at the root of the problems. The agency is unusual in state government in that although it has a full-time professional staff, it places all decisions in the hands of an appointed council, nine of whose members are nominated by the governor and approved by the Senate.

Contact your legislators in the RI House and in the RI Senate and let them know how you want them to vote.

1 thought on “Fix The CRMC Now!”

  1. Donna Hutchinson

    Give a link to the list of legislator’s emails and districts. Make it easier for people to act. Save the Bay should do the same.
    Also using bullet points to make remembering the facts would help people better explain the issues and repeat them.

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