PROVIDENCE – House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi has named 15 members to a special commission that will study the structure and operations of the state Coastal Resources Management Council and consider a reorganization of the agency that oversees all coastal development in Rhode Island.
The House approved legislation creating the commission in June amid concerns about several recent decisions by the coastal council. The powerful council not only has authority over development along the state’s 400 miles of coastline but also makes key decisions over aquaculture, dredging and offshore wind projects.
“The CRMC was formed by the General Assembly in 1972. A lot has happened over the past 50 years. I believe it’s time to review coastal management procedures, the composition and experience of the board, and identify opportunities to make the CRMC better for the future of Rhode Island and its residents,” Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, the Jamestown Democrat who introduced the bill, said in a statement.
The commission includes four House members: Ruggiero; Lauren Carson, D-Newport; Arthur Handy, D-Cranston; and Michael Chippendale, R-Foster, Glocester, Coventry; and five town officials: Jamestown Town Administrator Jamie Hainsworth; Exeter Town Planner William DePasquale Jr.; Newport City Manager Joe Nicholson Jr.; New Shoreham Town Councilor Sven Risom; and Westerly Town Planner Nancy Letendre.
The remaining six members are: Save The Bay Director of Advocacy Topher Hamblett; Rhode Island Builders Association CEO John Marcantonio; Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association President Richard Hittinger; Rhode Island Shellfisherman’s Association President Michael McGiveney; University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography Dean Paula Bontempi; and Audubon Society of Rhode Island Executive Director Lawrence Taft.
The coastal council is unique in Rhode Island state government. While it has professional staff with expertise in coastal issues, all major decisions are put in the hands of a 10-member council made up of members appointed by the governor. Recent appointments have included a dental hygienist and the head of a chain of physical therapy offices.
Over the last nine months, the council has come under criticism over the proposed expansion of a Block Island marina, a boatyard project in Jamestown and an offshore wind farm in Rhode Island Sound. Some have also raised questions about the latest appointment to the council. The council is currently short-handed after the resignation last month of its chairwoman.
The House commission is due to report its findings and recommendations by April 1, 2022.
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