Rhode Island Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan - Beach SAMP

Rhode Island developed the Beach SAMP guidance document to support the state's coastal communities in adapting to the impacts of climate change. The Plan provides guidance and tools for coastal municipalities and state agencies to prepare for and adapt to the effects of sea level rise, the increased frequency and severity of coastal storm events, and associated impacts of erosion, saltwater intrusion, infrastructure damage, and more. The study area for this plan includes the entire coastal zone - over 420 miles - of Rhode Island and all 21 coastal communities. The SAMP has been designed to be a planning document rather than a regulatory document with policies, regulations or standards, in order to provide the flexibility to local and state decision makers to identify strategies most appropriate for each community. 

Some of the research behind the plan includes shoreline change mapping, sediment transport analysis, inundation modeling, salt marsh migration, economic analysis, identifying at-risk areas and infrastructure, integration of findings from other statewide vulnerability assessments, tools and best practices, education and outreach.

The Beach SAMP is comprised of two volumes. Volume 1 provides: 

  • a synthesis of the current scientific understanding of sea level rise, storm surge, tidal flooding, and coastal erosion, and the related impacts to infrastructure, social, environmental and cultural assets in Rhode Island; 
  • a description of the tools developed to model and map potential future impacts from these coastal hazards; 
  • a discussion of risk and risk management within the coastal zone; and 
  • recommendations for best management practices and adaptation strategies for both the state and local level to minimize future risk. 

Volume 2 contains all of the technical reports that support the research conducted as part of the SAMP project, including more detailed information on research methodology and findings.

Volume 1, Chapter 7- Adaptation Strategies & Techniques covers many best management practices to improve state and local planning for shoreline change and coastal hazards; as well as physical adaptation techniques, retrofits and structural design considerations. The adaptation strategies for coastal properties include: Site Selection, Distance Inland, Elevation, Terrain Management, Natural and Nature-Based Adaptation Measures, Flood Barriers, Structural Shoreline Protection Measures, and Modifying or Retrofitting Structures: Wet and Dry Floodproofing. Some of the natural adaptation measures discussed include: 

  • Natural coastal bank protection
  • Living breakwaters
  • Dune restoration
  • Beach replenishment
  • Coastal wetland creation or enhancement

In 2016, the coastal towns of Newport, North Kingstown and Warwick began working with the Beach SAMP team through grant funding provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation - to evaluate nature-based flood solutions such as plantings, swales and absorbent ground cover in coastal areas vulnerable to inundation. The municipalities are providing the pilot sites, while state, non-government and academic organizations are working with the Beach SAMP team to provide resources, expertise and technical assistance.

The Beach SAMP is also used to inform regulatory changes to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Program. It was produced by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), and is facilitated by the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant.


Publication Date: July 15, 2018

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