RIDEM Addresses Questions from March 20th SMP Stakeholder Meeting

Many thanks to all who attended our Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan (SMP) meeting of March 20, 2013 — a great deal of information sharing and dialogue has taken place through the SMP process and an example of this interaction is included below. Appreciation to Angelo Liberti, of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, for providing answers to questions raised at the meeting. We look forward to continued collaboration on the SMP.


At the March 20, 2013 Shellfish Management Plan meeting, the Office of Water Resources presented information regarding how water quality based shellfish harvesting restrictions are made (view the presentation here). Participants at that meeting requested that DEM consider changing some of the current practices. DEM has evaluated those suggestions and was able to make some changes effective May 25, 2013. In addition, DEM discussed target monitoring programs that were being conducted in an effort to modify closures. Below is a response to these issues.

1. Noon time reopening. When rainfall amounts require closures, conditional areas (Upper Bay, Greenwich Bay, Mt Hope Bay and the Kickemuit River) are closed at noon and reopen at sunrise 7.5 days later. Meeting participants requested that DEM reopen at noon which would meet the required 7 day closure period. Provided the storm has ended when the noon closure is enacted, DEM will establish a noon reopening. Shellfishing vessels are asked not to enter these areas prior to the opening to avoid confusion over whether they are actually digging prior to the opening time or merely awaiting the start time.

2. Providing Latitude and Longitude for Closure lines. The 2013 Notice of Polluted Shellfish Grounds adds latitude and longitude for the Conimicut Triangle, the Bristol harbor range marker at Low Lane and the range marker at Carr Point. As resources allow DEM will add points to future annual announcements.

3. Target monitoring to assess the Southern Boundary of Conditional Area B. In response to Phase I of the Narragansett Bay Commission CSO project, water quality improvements resulted in revising the closure criteria for Conditional Area B from 1.0 to 1.5 inches of rain. During 2012, DEM attempted to collect additional data to determine if the southern boundary of Conditional Area B could be modified. To do so requires rain events greater that 1.5″ preceded by a period of dry weather. During 2012 there were only 8 such events, DEM sampled one and Area B was open approximately 83% of the time.

4. Target monitoring of unassessed small coves. In 2007 DEM closed coves landward of the shoreline which were not fully assessed and initiated a program to assess a priority group of waterbodies. As a result it has been determined that two coves totaling 10.7 acres can be reopened (a small tidal cove to the north of Seapowet Point and another small tidal area on Fogland Point). Unfortunately data has indicated that a 16.6 acre tidal pond within the Rueker’s Wildlife refuge in Little Compton must be changed from approved to prohibited.

Seasonal shellfish closures and revised annual shellfish harvesting restrictions will be effective sunrise May 25, 2013. The descriptions and maps illustrating the shellfish harvesting restrictions (Notice of Polluted Shellfishing Grounds May 2013) can be found here: http://www.dem.ri.gov/maps/mapfile/shellfsh.pdf. The most significant changes between 2012 and 2013 are modifying 463 acres in the upper bay from a 0.5 to 0.8 inch rain fall closure and changing 450 acres in Mount Hope Bay and the Kickemuit River from prohibited to conditional closure after 0.5″ of rain. Additional information is included in DEM’s press release: http://www.dem.ri.gov/news/2013/pr/0523131.htm

If you have any questions please contact:
Joe Migliore, RI DEM, 401-222-4700 extension 7258

If Joe is not available please ask to be connected to another member of the Office of Water Resources Shellfish Program.