Rhode Island Lagoons

by Stephen Olsen, Univ of Rhode Island, Narragansett, United States,
Virginia Lee, Univ of Rhode Island, Narragansett, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: The Management of Coastal Lagoons and Enclosed Bays


This case study describes the process of formulating a management plan for a coastal ecosystem comprising six coastal lagoons and their 82.4 km2 watershed in southern Rhode Island, U.S.A. The principal issues - deteriorating water quality, rapid sedimentation, overfishing, increased vulnerability to hurricane damage and mounting user conflicts - are all closely interrelated and driven by rapid residential development in the watershed. The complexity of the resource management issues is matched by the complexity of governmental authority fragmented among agencies of municipal, state and federal government. The plan was formulated after four years of scientific research designed to estimate the causes, linkages and significance of selected expressions of loss in environmental quality through two years of collaborative planning and negotiation with many agencies of government. During the six years following its formal adoption as an element of the Rhode Island Coastal Management Program, the plan has achieved many of its objectives but has not halted the gradual erosion of environmental quality in a region where scenic beauty and the abundant productivity of the lagoons had sustained a far smaller, largely self-sufficient population for many generations.

Subject Headings: Coastal processes | Islands | Lagoons | Water quality | Case studies | Coastal management | Sea water | Quality control | Rhode Island | United States

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