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Policies & Regulations of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation
in Rhode Island

Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) refers to rooted, vascular, flowering plants that, except for some flowering structures, live and grow below the water surface in coastal and estuarine waters in large meadows or small disjunct beds. SAV species of concern to CRMC for regulatory purposes include eelgass (Zostera marina) and widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima).

SAV are integral to the health of shallow coastal areas. To other aquatic organisms they are an active part of the food cycle, a quiet nursury ground, or a place of attachment and refuge. The thin SAV leaves buffer wave action and collect suspended material to solidify the sediment below. Bay scallops, hard clams, tautog, starfish, snails, mussels, blue crabs, and lobster are just some of the species that depend on the eelgrass beds at some time during their lifecycle.

Unfortunately, SAV habitats are often adversely affected by a number of anthropogenic activities: boat propellers; dredging and filling; fishing techniques such as scallop and clam dredging or toothed rakes; excessive habitat shading from docks or piers; and elevated nutrient levels, such as nitrogen, that create algal blooms and high turbidity. Today, due to various human activities, eelgrass beds cover less than 100 of the 96,000 acres of Narragansett Bay.

The goal of CRMC is to preserve, protect, and where possible, restore SAV habitat. The following activities under CRMC jurisdiction are required to avoid and minimize impacts to SAV habitat under Section 300.18 of the RI Coastal Resources Management Program (RICRMP): Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Public Recreational Structures, Recreational Boating Facilities, Sewage Treatment and Stormwater, Dredging and Dredged Materials Disposal, Filling in Tidal Waters, Aquaculture, and activities undertaken in accordance with municipal harbor regulations. The regulations that pertain to these activities and SAV habitats are provided below for your convenience.

For a complete listing and explanation of regulations that may pertain to your permit application, please see the RICRMP and/or contact CRMC staff at 401/783-3370.