The state of Rhode Island's Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP) is the first marine spatial plan in the United States to be formally approved by the federal government as an element of a state's Coastal Management Program. The 3800 km2 Ocean SAMP region includes waters under both state and federal jurisdiction. The Ocean SAMP applies the inclusive, ecosystem-based approach to marine spatial planning recommended by the National Ocean Commission in 2004 that is a feature of the National Ocean Policy promulgated in 2010. It places within a larger spatial planning context the impact assessment process that is the basis for the issuance of leases and permits requested by a developer for a specified activity at a defined marine site. The Ocean SAMP was prepared over a two and a half year period of information generation, analysis, consultation, planning and policy making prompted by the need to identify potentially suitable sites for anticipated offshore wind farms. Its highly consultative approach builds upon the 30 years of experience of the Rhode Island Coastal Program in developing and implementing special area management plans (SAMPs) for coastal and marine areas where conflicts over needs for both development and conservation demand special attention and negotiation among stakeholders with different interests. The phases in the development and approval of the Ocean SAMP, and the prospects for successful implementation are examined through frameworks suggested for the preparation of a governance baseline put forward by the international Land Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ) program.