RI Shore Access White Paper
1. Rhode Island’s founding fathers gave unique coastal rights to its citizens, among them are:passing along the shore, gathering seaweed, entering and leaving the water, and gathering the sea’s bounty (fishing, clamming, etc.)
-these are different from other states
-come from a foundation of our legal system the public trust doctrine.
2. Recent events have moved this issue to a crisis level because:
-flood insurance has made building in uninsurable locations feasible
-the water’s edge is moving inland with sea level rise
-new septic system designs and public sewer construction have caused an explosion of building along the immediate coast.
3. Our constitution establishes a public easement across the shoreline, approx. 10 ft. wide.
-it is not a taking (specifically stated in the constitution)
-it must be available at any tide, on any shore (beach or sea wall) that “feels the tide”
-this is independent of another important public trust aspect, which is that the state owns the land between high and low tide.
-using the intertidal ownership issue to define citizen’s shore privileges has been a major, erroneous, and confusing intrusion into this discussion.
4. The US Supreme Court has supported the public use of private property (easements) along the shore for uses delineated by state constitutions in Me. and elsewhere.
-three other states have passed “open shore” laws and they have held up in the courts.
5. An effective pathway for establishing the details of execution will have to be identified.
-safety and security exceptions
-find ways for already built development to accommodate these rights.
-determine geographical impact
6. Tourism is the biggest industry in RI.
– it is because of our shoreline activities, views, etc.
-this would make RI even more desirable for tourism
7. This is a very popular position.
-the Yankee in us doesn’t like the idea of losing any form of citizens’ rights
-shorefront property owners are winners too; they would no longer be “prisoners of their property lines”
-the issue won’t go awayà more and more shorefront properties are taking aggressive action to prevent / hinder lateral passage along the shore.
-being behind citizens’ rights in any way is a positive political stance.