SOUTH KINGSTOWN—The ocean is a vast and multicolored canvas upon which humans use different paint strokes in order to classify and document its usages. In any given area, the seascape is used for everything from launching kayaks to dredging the ocean’s bottom to construct underwater natural gas lines. No one document, however, exists to catalog all of these usages at any particular time.
Researchers from environmental and university groups met on Tuesday to discuss the implementation of the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan, or SAMP. This plan, unanimously approved by the Coastal Resources Management Center (CRMC) in October 2010, is designed to be a vital tool for understanding how the ocean’s waters in Rhode Island and Block Island Sound are used.
“Now we do not have any one place where people can go to get information, and all of our data collection is done in a totally stove piped way,” said Betsy Nicholson, Northeast Lead for NOAA’s Coastal Services Center.
“My message could be as simple as, ‘look at the people who are using the ocean,” said Jeff Dewey, Water Program Specialist for the Pennsylvania office of the Environmental Protection Agency. “Until we understand how the ocean is being used, we cannot make concrete decisions.”
The Ocean SAMP, developed by a team of researchers from CRMC and URI’s Coastal Resources Center, is a depository for the numerous environmental and economic studies done concerning potential use in any way of the ocean. A large component of the SAMP includes significant marine spatial planning which will produce a multilayered map of data detailing important information about economic, ecological, and recreational usages and realities of the ocean’s makeup.
“The Ocean SAMP is about data management,” said Nicholson. “It is a very visual way for businesses to see how decisions can be made and makes it much easier for them to get projects through.”
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