The Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP), a marine spatial plan — and, one of the United States’ first such plans — laid the groundwork for the siting and permitting of the nation’s first offshore wind farm. This document examines the Ocean SAMP process from the time it was conceived, through its intensive plan development period (2008 – 2010) and its five years of implementation to date (2010‐2015). The focus, however, is on examining the implementation phase, as this is the period that has yet to be studied. Drawing on the field‐tested experience of planners, managers, and stakeholders interviewed for this study, the case offers lessons learned through this intensive marine spatial planning (MSP) process. These lessons emphasize the importance of: building a broad base of leadership; allowing time to build trust; using the planning driver to maintain stakeholder engagement through plan implementation; including clear policy tools in the plan to facilitate streamlined decision‐making; and preparing to work even harder during implementation than in the design and development phases.
This case study tells two stories. First is that of preparing a marine spatial plan for an area shaped by numerous interests and resources important to Rhode Islanders: commercial and recreational fishing, commercial shipping, recreational boating and sailing, marine resources and habitats, and potentially offshore wind energy development. Second is that of locating and permitting the United States’ first offshore wind energy project. The coast of the northeastern United States has premier wind resources, and renewable energy development is arguably a priority to both the nation and to the state of Rhode Island. The two stories are interwoven, as that is how they have taken place. Yet, it is important to emphasize that the Ocean SAMP was launched, prepared and adopted as a comprehensive ecosystem‐based marine spatial plan, not as a renewable energy facility siting plan.
This report is one of three marine spatial planning (MSP) case study reports produced by the Coastal Resources Center/Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program (CRC) at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. The purpose of the case studies is to document and share lessons learned from examples of marine spatial planning in the U.S. in order to build the capacity of MSP and coastal management practitioners. Research was conducted in three locations: Rhode Island, Washington State and San Francisco. The Rhode Island case focused on implementation of the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan; the Washington case focused on the ongoing development of the Washington Coast Marine Spatial Plan; and the San Francisco study became a two‐case analysis of two different Coast Guard‐led waterways management initiatives.