Legislation Introduced to Safeguard Sapowet Marsh Management Area from Commercial Development

Representative John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), the Majority Floor Manager of the House of Representatives, has put forth a legislative proposal aimed at preserving the Sapowet Marsh Management Area in Tiverton. The bill (2024-H 7060) seeks to prohibit any commercial development on the expansive 296-acre salt marsh.

The primary objective of the legislation is to designate the Sapowet Marsh Management Area as open space, exclusively earmarked for passive outdoor recreation. Representative Edwards emphasizes the importance of safeguarding this area and its natural attributes. The bill additionally includes the extension of control over Sapowet Cove, an adjacent water expanse, to the Department of Environmental Management.

Originally established in 1948 through a grant from the Truman Administration to the Rhode Island Department of Natural Resources, the Sapowet Marsh Management Area has expanded to nearly 300 acres. Representative Edwards underscores the initial intent behind the area’s acquisition – to preserve the critical marshland from commercial and residential development, allowing public access for various recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, shellfishing, and general outdoor enjoyment.

However, concerns have arisen as Sapowet Cove, integral to the uniqueness of the Sapowet Marsh Management Area, is being considered for an oyster farm location. Representative Edwards voices the community’s sentiments, stating, “Sapowet Cove is an integral part of what makes Sapowet Marsh Management Area unique in the Sakonnet River area; people can wade, swim, shellfish, kayak, sailboard, and kiteboard in this beautiful, untouched cove.”

The Coastal Resources Management Council has prolonged the oyster farm’s application process for four years without providing a definitive answer or resolution. In response, the introduced legislation explicitly outlines in law that the management area is intended solely for recreational purposes and should not be subjected to commercial development.

Cosponsored by Representatives Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), and Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), the legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Municipal Government and Housing for further consideration.




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