State of the Beach/State Reports/RI/Beach Fill

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Rhode Island Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access86
Water Quality66
Beach Erosion8-
Erosion Response-7
Beach Fill5-
Shoreline Structures6 2
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas48
Website6-


Policies

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs, A National Overview (NOAA, March 2000) provides the following information:

"The state has some policies regarding beach nourishment. State waters are classified into 6 categories based on current use of water and adjacent land. Types of activities permitted on shoreline feature depends on the designation the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) has given the water body adjacent to the site. See section 1.3 for an explanation of the water types.

Policy Citation and Description

State Water Classification/Activities Permitted:

(1) Beaches and Dunes and Undeveloped Barrier Beaches adjacent to Type 1 waters: All activities prohibited except: . . . nonstructural shoreline protection; beach nourishment; or protection, restoration, or improvement of a feature as natural habitat for plants and wildlife.
(2) Moderately Developed Barrier Beaches adjacent to Type 1 waters: All activities prohibited except: . . . nonstructural shoreline protection; upland dredged material disposal; beach nourishment; or protection, restoration, or improvement of a feature as natural habitat for plants and wildlife.
(3) Developed Barrier Beaches adjacent to Type 1 waters: Activities allowed: nonstructural shoreline protection; upland dredged material disposal; beach nourishment. Activities prohibited: structural shoreline protection facilities

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 110. Activity Matrices (being updated as of 1998). Indicates that while beach nourishment is an allowed activity in tidal waters, beaches and dunes, undeveloped barriers, moderately developed barriers and developed barrier islands adjacent to all classes of waters (1-6), this activity will require a Category B assent (full review). Also indicates that beach nourishment is prohibited in coastal wetlands adjacent to all classes of waters. Beach nourishment projects may also be allowed under Category A following criteria in Section 300.9(B)(5).

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 210.7 (C)(3). Shoreline Features: Dunes. Alteration of the foredune zone adjacent to Type 1 and 2 waters is allowed for nourishment projects.

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 300.2. Filling, Removing, or Grading of Shoreline Features. (B)(1) Nourishment is allowable on beaches and dunes adjacent to Type 1 and 2 waters where it will preserve or enhance the feature as a conservation area or natural buffer against storms. (C)(1) Nourishment projects may allow for removal or placement of sediments along jetties or groins.

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 300.7 (B)(1). Construction of Shoreline Protection Features. Section 300.7 (B)(3) Structural shoreline protection may be allowed only after all reasonable and practical alternatives have been exhausted including relocation of the structure and nonstructural shoreline protection methods including beach nourishment.

RI Salt Pond Region SAMP. 1999. Maschaug to Point Judith Ponds. 930.1 (B)(5), (E)(1)(a) Requires the disposal of sand dredged materials to replenish the following adjacent beaches: Sand Hill Cove, East Matunuck, Charlestown Beach, Quonochontaug Barrier Beach. Prohibits, for beach restoration, mechanical removal or redistribution of the sand from the intertidal zone of the beach to increase the profile of the beach scarp; or construction of artificial dunes since they destabilize the beach, increase erosion along the beach and increase sedimentation in ponds Specifies design guidelines for beach restoration. Identifies priority areas for acquisition. 950 (2)(c), During post storm reconstruction, overwashed sand that is dredged for habitat restoration in the salt ponds must be placed on the adjoining ocean beach. (2)(d), Sand that is removed from paved roads must be returned to the adjacent ocean beach. (3) Beach replenishment is Council’s method of choice for shoreline protection.

The Narrow River SAMP. 1999. 930.1 (A)(4)(a), (A)(4)(b), (A)(8), Suitable sand dredged from flood tidal deltas to support existing recreational use in the Narrow River shall be placed on the Narragansett Town Beach. (B)(4), Disposal of foreign dredged material is prohibited on the shoreline of the watershed unless a council approved beach replenishment program has been established.

Classification of Water Types

About 75% of Rhode Island’s shoreline is in Type 1 or 2. Type 1 Waters: Conservation Areas - abut undisturbed shorelines or land that is unsuitable for development due to waves, flooding or erosion. Type 2 Waters: Low Intensity Use Areas - adjoin land dominated by low-intensity recreational and residential use. Type 3 Waters: High Intensity Recreational Boating Areas - abut marinas and other water dependent uses Type 4 Waters: Multipurpose Areas - abut land with water dependent commercial, industrial or recreational uses. Type 5 Waters: Commercial and Recreational Harbors - abut commercial and recreational harbors. Type 6 Waters: Industrial Waterfronts & Commercial Navigational Channels - abut industrial waterfronts and commercial navigational channels.

Related Policies

Near Shore Sand Mining Regulations

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 300.2 (B)(1). Filling, removing or grading is prohibited on beaches, dunes, undeveloped barriers, coastal wetlands, cliffs, banks, and rocky shores adjacent to Type 1 and 2 waters unless the primary purpose of the alteration is to preserve or enhance a feature as a conservation area or a natural buffer against storms. (B)(4), Mining is prohibited on coastal features.

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 110. Activity Matrices (being updated as of 1998). Mining is prohibited in all categories of tidal waters. Prohibition does not include dredging of tidal waters for navigation channel maintenance, habitat restoration and beach nourishment.

An offshore sidescan sonar survey for potential offshore sand sources was completed for CRMC by the University of Rhode Island Department of Geology in 1998. The results identify possible borrow sites below the sand return depth off the coast of the Misquamicut barrier/headland complex and the Charlestown barrier/Green Hill headland. Thickness of the sand sheets needs to be determined.

Dredge and Fill Regulations

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 300.2 Filling, Removing, Grading of Shoreline Features. Prohibited on beaches, dunes, undeveloped barrier beaches, cliffs and banks, rocky shores, wetlands adjacent to Type 1 and 2 waters, unless the primary purpose is to preserve/enhance the feature as a conservation area or a natural buffer against storms.

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 300.9. Dredging and Dredge Material Disposal. Permit required for both dredging and disposal. (B)(3) Council encourages use of dredged material for beach nourishment, particularly for small volume projects. (B)(5) Beach nourishment projects may be allowed under category A assent provided the Executive Director determines (i) placement of materials for beach nourishment only; (ii) and proposal meets provisions for category A assents (110.1) and standards for dredged material disposal on beaches (300.9). (C)(2), (C)(3), (C)(4) Prerequisite approvals need to be obtained from RIDEM, USACE and EPA. (F)(5) Dredged material disposal on the beach is the preferred alternative if dredged materials are predominately clean, of compatible grain size and have other similar characteristics found in the naturally occurring sand. Material must be placed on downdrift side of jetties and meet fill regulations (300.2).

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping Regulations

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 210.7 (C)(3). Alteration of the foredune zone adjacent to Type 1 and 2 waters is allowed where the primary purpose is non-structural protection, restoration or improvement of a feature as a natural habitat for native plants and wildlife.

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 300.2 (B)(1). Filling, removing or grading is prohibited on beaches, dunes, undeveloped barriers, coastal wetlands, cliffs, banks, and rocky shores adjacent to Type 1 and 2 waters unless the primary purpose of the alteration is to preserve or enhance a feature as a conservation area or a natural buffer against storms.

Dune Creation/Restoration Regulations

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 210.7 (C)(3). Shoreline Features: Dunes. Alteration of the foredune zone adjacent to Type 1 and 2 waters is allowed where the primary purpose of the project is non-structural protection, restoration or improvement of the feature as a natural habitat for native plants and wildlife.

Public Access Regulations

RI Coastal Resources Management Program Policies. Section 335(C)(4) [added in 1997]. Publicly funded beach nourishment projects must include a “public access” component.

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

There is no state funding program for beach nourishment."

Rhode Island General Laws, Chapter 46-23 provides some guide to beach fill activities.

CRMC staff believes there should be a long-term plan to put sand from flood tidal deltas in coastal lagoons back into longshore transport along the coast.[1]

In April 2011 the Coastal Resources Management Council issued a report on short-term and long-term alternatives to address erosion along Matunuck Beach Road in South Kingstown. This case illustrates the problems and limited options available to address coastal erosion when houses and associated infrastructure are built too close to an eroding shoreline. The report explores the possibility of allowing wooden bulkheads as a short-term solution, but offers the following assessment of long-term solutions:

"As detailed above and in great detail in the appendices, this is an existing erosion problem with very limited solutions that will prove satisfactory in the long run. It is a problem that is occurring across the country with greater frequency. Mr. Rick Murray who is a professor of earth science from Boston University and a Scituate, MA selectman said it best recently in the Boston Globe (April 3, 2011) “Not everything we love can be saved”. Coastal defense structures are very expensive, require constant maintenance, and significantly degrade the beach, public access, and benthic resources in the vicinity. Soft solutions are expensive and require significant amounts of maintenance. Beach nourishment projects are expensive and require a steady supply of compatible dredge projects. These dredge projects may have adverse impacts at the dredge location. Retreat is expensive, unacceptable to many waterfront owners and in many cases not practical. The common node here is that all of the solutions are expensive and don’t protect fully against storm surge and damage from a hurricane. This issue must be carefully debated at the state and local level as to how much should we pay for coastal shoreline defenses, particularly when the benefits are very local, and more importantly who should pay."

Inventory

CRMC maintains an inventory (Excel spreadsheet) of beach fill projects from 1994 onward, although it is not published nor is it available on-line. It is available by request from CRMC. Cost information is in each individual project file, but has not been compiled.

Although the state does not fund beach fill projects, they are planning to spend money for the "beneficial use of dredge materials." Some private property owners have funded their own projects. Many small private beaches add 10s of cubic yards of sand annually. The state does not monitor beach fill projects after sand placement.[2]

The start of a maintenance dredging project on the Point Judith Pond and Navigational Channel in Galilee was announced in November 2006. This project quickly ran into trouble in early 2007 when a large amount of trash began to appear on South Kingstown Town and Matunuck Beaches. Here's CRMC's response to complaints about the project from citizens, Surfrider Foundation and other groups.

The state is currently working on several beach fill projects, most of which are part of a habitat restoration or dredging project.

From 2003 to 2005 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) conducted a Providence River dredging project. This project was projected to involve dredging and disposal of up to 4.3 million cubic yards of sediment.

CRMC staff provided the following statistics regarding beach fill projects during the period 1995 through 2001.[3]

Year No. of Projects No. of Repeat Projects Volume of Fill (yd3)
2001 4 3 468
2000 5 2 >36∗
1999 3 2 710
1998 5 0 >5524∗
1997 5 4 >3965∗
1996 3 2 >50∗
1995 9 3 >543∗

∗ Two or more projects did not specify the volume

Rhode Island has been conducting an eelgrass restoration project at Ninigret Pond. This Section 206, Aquatic Habitat Restoration project, was initiated in November 2004. The project is sponsored by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and includes dredging up to 40 acres of tidal delta in the pond, creating a sedimentation basin in the breachway, eelgrass planting in the restored pond areas, and construction of a fishway for herring at nearby Cross Mills Pond. The initial dredging work began in the fall of 2004 and was completed in the spring of 2006. Limited eelgrass planting efforts were conducted in the fall of 2006 with further work delayed until at least 2007 so the dredged areas can be monitored. CRMC has asked the Corps to dredge the restoration area on the east side of the pond using the funds initially set aside for eelgrass planting and the fish ladder. A dredging contract was awarded in August 2007 to GOVCON of Norman, Okla. Work was scheduled to begin in November 2007. A similar restoration effort in Winnapaug Pond is also being considered. Final designs for Winnapaug Pond were initiated in 2006 and were scheduled to be completed in 2007.

ACOE's Update Report for Rhode Island describes the current status of navigation, ecological restoration and other projects in the state.


Information on beach fill in Rhode Island is also available through Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. State-by-state information is available from the pull-down menu or by clicking on a state on the map on this page. Background information and a database with details on individual projects by state can be found here.

A report National Assessment of Beach Nourishment Requirements Associated with Accelerated Sea Level Rise (Leatherman, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Change website notes that the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to protect Rhode Island's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $92 million-$298 million.

The Fiscal Year 2015 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.561 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs: A National Overview (2000) is a report NOAA/OCRM that provides an overview of the problem of beach erosion, various means of addressing this problem, and discusses issues regarding the use of beach nourishment. Section 2 of the report provides an overview of state, territorial, and commonwealth coastal management policies regarding beach nourishment and attendant funding programs. Appendix B provides individual summaries of 33 beach nourishment programs and policies.


Contact

Janet Freedman, Coastal Geologist
Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council
Phone: (401) 783-3370
Email: JFreedman@crmc.ri.gov

Footnotes

  1. Janet Freedman, CRMC. Surfrider 2002 State of the Beach survey response.
  2. Janet Freedman, CRMC. Surfrider 2002 State of the Beach survey response.
  3. Janet Freedman, CRMC. Surfrider 2002 State of the Beach survey response.



State of the Beach Report: Rhode Island
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