URI, CRMC to evaluate offshore sand resources with fed support
FEDERAL SCIENTISTS WITH the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Management will collaborate with the University of Rhode Island and the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council to survey offshore sand resources that could be used to prevent future coastal erosion. Above, a machine clears sand off Atlantic Ave. in Westerly after Hurricane Sandy.
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – As part of the long-term recovery effort following the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the state of Rhode Island are collaborating to evaluate sand resources for coastal resilience and restoration planning.
Under a two-year, $200,000 agreement, the University of Rhode Island will map the geology of selected areas offshore. The R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council will provide advisory support. The maps that are developed under the partnership will be used to identify and locate potential areas of sand resources, as well as habitat in and around bodies of water.
Hurricane Sandy struck Rhode Island in October 2012.
Federal scientists collaborating with URI and the CRMC will help identify areas to study in order to confirm known areas of concern and identify new ones, said Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Such activities are essential for reducing potential storm damage to the residents, economies, and infrastructure of Rhode Island’s coastal areas, he said.
“The goal is to identify offshore sand and gravel resources to offset coastal erosion,” said John King, professor of oceanography at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. “We’re going to map the habitat and the sub-bottom geology of areas that we think have sand resources, and then determine the volume of material available.”
“This is the beginning of much needed work to learn if offshore sand resources are a viable option for Rhode Island,” said CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate. “We want to do this work and be prepared in advance of any need created by major storm or sea level rise so that it is done in a thoughtful and reasoned way.”
The work will include surveys, as well as environmental studies that could help determine if this material could be extracted without detriment to the environment and the fishing industry, Fugate said.
The agreement is part of a series of partnerships between the federal bureau and coastal Atlantic states using part of the $13.6 million allocated to the ocean energy agency through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.