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Environmental Journal: Wave of issues greet ocean task force

CHARLESTOWN - State geologist Jon Boothroyd warned that houses are raised on pilings along the South County beaches to avoid storm waves, but state and local officials use standards so old they do not account for 1 foot of sea level rise. If another hurricane like the one in 1938 hits, he said, his data shows the storm surge would roll right over the dunes and take out most of the houses along the beach.

Pointing down the beach, he said, "That house would be gone. But it would be in compliance with local codes."

In nearby Ninigret Pond, acres of eel grass have quickly returned after a state and federal project spent several million dollars pumping out sand that entered through the Charlestown Breachway. But sand has already swept back into the pond and buried several acres of grasses, and the state's coastal agency is having trouble finding money to remove it.

In the next few years, billions of dollars will be spent for wind turbines offshore. But much of that money will go to manufacturers in Europe if the United States doesn't do more to support manufacturing wind turbine components here.

Those were some of the issues presented Friday to a presidential task... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

CHARLESTOWN - State geologist Jon Boothroyd warned that houses are raised on pilings along the South County beaches to avoid storm waves, but state and local officials use standards so old they do not account for 1 foot of sea level rise. If another hurricane like the one in 1938 hits, he said, his data shows the storm surge would roll right over the dunes and take out most of the houses along the beach.

Pointing down the beach, he said, "That house would be gone. But it would be in compliance with local codes."

In nearby Ninigret Pond, acres of eel grass have quickly returned after a state and federal project spent several million dollars pumping out sand that entered through the Charlestown Breachway. But sand has already swept back into the pond and buried several acres of grasses, and the state's coastal agency is having trouble finding money to remove it.

In the next few years, billions of dollars will be spent for wind turbines offshore. But much of that money will go to manufacturers in Europe if the United States doesn't do more to support manufacturing wind turbine components here.

Those were some of the issues presented Friday to a presidential task force gathering information for a new national ocean policy. The group, headed by Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, completed a two-day visit to Rhode Island by gathering on one of the state's most picturesque beaches and hearing presentations on sea level rise, aquaculture and development of offshore wind turbine farms.

On Thursday, the panel heard testimony from more than 80 people in a crowd of more than 250 at the Rhode Island Convention Center. They came from all over the East Coast and were generally supportive of President Obama's call for a new ocean policy based on improved stewardship of the oceans.

The oceans task force was created by Mr. Obama in June. He ordered it to report back to him on Dec. 9, particularly with recommendations to implement marine spatial planning, which is similar to zoning of increasingly crowded coastal waters.

Earlier Friday morning, Grover Fugate, executive director of Rhode Island's coastal agency, the Coastal Resources Management Council, briefed Sutley, Jane Lubchenco, executive director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others at the University of Rhode Island's Bay Campus about 26 years of work using special area maps to plan and regulate the state's coastal waters.

"You are living in one of the most densely populated areas of the world, but look how pristine that shoreline is - that's the result of ocean zoning," Fugate said.

Fugate said every state on the East Coast from Maine to Georgia is working to develop offshore renewable energy. Rhode Island is spending millions on an ocean mapping project that addresses sea lanes, wind speeds, ocean bottom composition and marine life. The URI research vessel Endeavor just returned from a cruise mapping the offshore waters.

Much of that work, Fugate said, suggests that the best place for the wind farm proposed by Deepwater Wind is south of Block Island.

In comparison, he said a company called Gray's Harbor proposed leasing a large tract south of the state's prime choice for a wave and wind farm. The proposal tied up a lot of government officials, Fugate said. But only later was it learned that it is right in the middle of the prime navigation channels for submarines going to and from the Navy base in Groton, Conn.

That's why more marine spatial planning should be done, Fugate said. "If we knew then, it would have saved a lot of administrative time and money."

Fugate gestured at the windswept beach and told the officials that no new buildings are allowed on this stretch of shoreline.

"We do not allow any new structures. No sewer lines or water lines to support development. All we allow are a few parking spaces. This is one of the treasures we're trying to preserve."

For more information on the task force, and to submit testimony online, go to www.whitehouse.gov/oceans. You can also read the hundreds of comments submitted so far. The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Honolulu.


Source: http://www.projo.com/news/c...

SEP 27 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/22390-environmental-journal-wave-of-issues-greet-ocean-task-force
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