State of the Beach/State Reports/RI/Beach Description

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Rhode Island Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access86
Water Quality64
Beach Erosion8-
Erosion Response-7
Beach Fill5-
Shoreline Structures6 2
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas48
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


Rhode Island is endowed with over 400 miles of densely populated, tidally influenced shoreline, consisting of both sandy and gravel barrier beaches, and rocky cliffs. Block Island and Narragansett Bay contain relatively undisturbed salt marshes, tidal flats, rocky shores, and small islands. The beaches along the Rhode Island coast are highly developed and are heavily used by hundreds of thousands residents and out-of-state visitors each year.

Contact Info for the Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency

Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council
Stedman Government Center, Suite 3
4808 Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, RI 02879-1900
Phone: (401) 783-3370

Coastal Zone Management Program

The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is an environmental regulatory and management agency responsible for the preservation, protection, development, and, where possible, the restoration of the coastal areas of the state. To properly manage coastal resources, the General Assembly has given the CRMC explicit powers and duties. Specifically, the CRMC is charged with the primary responsibility for the continued planning and management of the resources of the state's coastal region; is authorized to formulate policies and plans to adopt regulations necessary to implement its various management programs; coordinate its functions with local, state, and federal governments on coastal resources issues (including advising the governor, the General Assembly, and the public on coastal matters, and acting as binding arbitrator in any dispute involving both the resources of the state's coastal region and the interests of two or more municipalities or state agencies); and is responsible for the designation of all public rights-of-way to the tidal water areas of the state, and carrying on a continued discovery of appropriate public rights-of-way.

Chapter 46-23, Coastal Resources Management Council is the key statute under Title 46 Waters and Navigation that guides the actions of the CRMC.

Also see the Coastal Resources Management Program, As Amended a.k.a. the "Red Book."

Rhode Island's CRMC was evaluated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management from June 2003 to October 2005. The evaluation cited a long list of accomplishments ranging from improving public access to the water to restoring coastal ponds and eelgrass beds. But the evaluators also found fault with the council's political appointees who rule on permit applications and at times overrule its staff without providing complete explanations. NOAA suggested that training for council members be mandatory before they can vote on permits. They also suggested that perhaps the council should spend more time on policy and less on hearing permit applications. More information on the NOAA evaluation, including a link to the 52-page report, is available on CRMC's website

NOAA's latest evaluation of Rhode Island's Coastal Management Program can be found here.


  1. Bernd-Cohen, T. and M. "Gordon State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217, 1999.
  2. Bernd-Cohen, T. and M. Gordon. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217. 1999.

State of the Beach Report: Rhode Island
Rhode Island Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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