Supreme Court stops marina expansion in Block Island’s Great Salt Pond

This is a photo of boats on Block Island, Monday, July 25, 2022. (WLNE)

BLOCK ISLAND, R.I. (WLNE) — Rhode Island’s Supreme Court ruled Friday against the proposed expansion of Champlin’s Marina on Block Island.

This case dates back to 2003, when an application by Champlin’s Marina was submitted to the Coastal Resources Management Council for an extension into Block Island’s Great Salt Pond. Several environmental groups, including the Conservation Law Foundation and Committee for the Great Salt Pond, opposed this proposal.

According to the CLF, “In January 2011, the CRMC denied the expansion permit, and Champlin’s appealed to the Superior Court. Rhode Island’s Superior Court ruled in 2020 that the CRMC decision to deny the permit was the correct one, and the Supreme Court upheld that ruling today.”

“Today’s decision is a major victory for Block Island,” CLF attorney James Crowley said Friday. “The Great Salt Pond is one of the state’s pristine environmental gems, and this huge proposed expansion of the marina would permanently scar it. After almost two decades, this should be the end of the expansion effort.”

Attorney General Peter Neronha shared a similar sentiment, saying the ruling “is a win for all Rhode Islanders not only because of what it means for the protection of our environment and coastal resources, but also because it reaffirms the principle that we were fighting for: regulatory agencies have to follow the rules and cannot engage in ad-hoc, behind-closed-door, deals that ignore their own procedures and evidence for the sake of expediency.”

Neronha, who intervened in March 2021, emphasized that Champlin’s Marina and the CRMC attempted to “circumvent the public regulatory process.”

“Every Rhode Island regulatory agency must follow these rules, codified in the Administrative Procedures Act,” Neronha added. “The Coastal Resources Management Council. The Department of Environmental Management. The Department of Health. The Department of Business Regulation. The Public Utilities Commission. And more.”

“Proceeding in this way, and only in this way, ensures merit-based public decision-making, instills public confidence in that transparent process, and, in the event of an appeal from the agency decision, allows a reviewing court and the public to know precisely what the regulatory agency did and, most importantly, why,” added the attorney general.

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