Ensuring Government Oversight & Public Policy

Your eyes, ears and voice for Narragansett Bay

Photo of Sail In 1980s
Save The Bay organized a sail-in to draw attention to pollution from wastewater treatment facilities.

From our very first battle to prevent an oil refinery from being built along the shores of Tiverton, Rhode Island, Save The Bay has been working to prevent laws, policies, ill-conceived proposals that threaten the health of the Bay and to champion laws and policies that protect the Bay and the right of every citizen to access the shoreline. We work in the halls of local and state government to support legislation aimed at improving water quality, that funds habitat restoration and climate adaptation programs, and that strengthens transparency in environmental governance. We hold state and federal agencies accountable for enforcing the laws that protect Narragansett Bay by shining light on both chronic and immediate pollution issues, and, when necessary, taking legal action. We are the citizens’ watchdog—and the eyes, ears and voice—for Narragansett Bay.Save The Bay was founded on the community’s desire to protect our most precious resource — Narragansett Bay – and our work is paying off. Today the Bay is cleaner and healthier, with a balance of uses, and it continues to be an economic driver for our region.

Public Access: Protecting Your Right to the Shore

Photo of people fishing on the bay
The R.I. Constitution guarantees the public’s right to access walk, fish, collect seaweed, swim and otherwise recreate along the shoreline.

The Rhode Island Constitution guarantees the right of the public to enjoy and exercise access to the shoreline, and to walk, swim, fish, paddle, gather seaweed, or otherwise recreate anywhere along the shoreline in the zone that lies below high tide—whether that shoreline fronts public or private land. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council manages 220 state-designated public rights of the way to the shoreline, while many others are owned by federal, state or municipal government and managed for the public or by private organizations that welcome the public. Among the most popular access points are state and local beaches and parks, municipal waterfront areas, state designated fishing areas, boat launching ramps, bike paths, mooring areas, marinas, state fishing ports, and public rights of way.

Unfortunately, public access to the water is increasingly threatened by increased demands for coastal development, poorly maintained public access sites, hardening of the shoreline, erosion, and other effects of sea level rise. About 133 miles of Narragansett Bay’s shoreline is lined with riprap walls, bulkheads, and other manmade structures.

Since our beginnings in 1970, Save The Bay has been committed to improving public access to the Bay, rivers, coastal ponds and our south coast. Our primary vision is swimmable, fishable, healthy waters accessible to all. While the number of designated public rights of way has stood at about 220 for several years, the Rhode Island General Assembly has set a goal of identifying at least one public right of way for each mile of shoreline, with a goal of 420 sites. Save The Bay is actively helping with the that effort. Public access along newly developing waterfronts is an area of both concern and potential, but new buffer policies for urban waterfront redevelopment in the upper Bay create the possibility of continuous public access along urban waterfronts. Establishing coastal buffers, rather than armoring the shoreline can provide many benefits, including public access, habitat, stabilization of the shoreline, and filtering of runoff.

Download our 2018 Public Access Report

Advocating for Strong Environmental Enforcement

Enforcement of environmental law is critical to our natural resources, public health and safety. An effective enforcement program depends on funding and political will of state and federal leadership and state and federal environmental agencies.  Protecting Narragansett Bay and its spectacular coastline from environmental damage is a core function of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. Timely and consistent enforcement action stops the degradation of the environment and protects public health. Conducting and following up on inspections, and keeping the public informed of enforcement.

Press conference on environmental enforcement at the state house
Enforcement staffing at Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management has been declining for more than a decade. Save The Bay is working to change that.

Championing Policies, Laws, Regulations that are Good for Narragansett Bay

Photo of oil drilling rally
Save The Bay mobilized hundreds to rally with us to protect New England waters from the risks of oil spills.

Each year, we set and pursue legislative priorities and advocate for laws and policies that protect Narragansett Bay, its watershed, and the coastal environment. We are active where key decisions are made—in the state houses of Rhode Island and Massachusetts and in the halls of Congress. We monitor the actions of government agencies charged with protecting the environment. We analyze the impacts policies and proposals and fight against those that threaten the health of Narragansett Bay.  We strive to increase public awareness of these issues by mobilizing our members, supporters and other organizations to speak out and take action. As a result, major successes have been achieved in improve water quality, restored habitats, reformed dredging policies, oil spill prevention laws, and restoration of river systems, to name a few.

Read About Some of Our Latest Policy Initiatives

Save The Bay responds to R.I. Superior Court decision on CRMC vs. Champlin’s Marina

Friday, September 10, 2021

Save The Bay is baffled and dismayed by the Rhode Island Superior Court’s decision to rule that the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between CRMC and Champlin’s Marina was “conducted and created with propriety” and “sufficiently conclusive.“

Save The Bay is baffled and dismayed by the Rhode Island Superior Court’s decision to rule that the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between CRMC and Champlin’s Marina was “conducted and... ...Read More

A narrow path between coastal shrubs leads to a rocky coastline. Water and waves are visible past the rocks, and a couple donning blue shirts sits with their backs to the camera, looking at the water.

Digging deeper: Public access in Rhode Island

Thursday, August 5, 2021

There is no doubt about it: the Rhode Island Constitution specifically protects the public’s right to access and use the shore. But the exact location of that public shoreline is harder to locate than you might think.

There is no doubt about it: the Rhode Island Constitution specifically protects the public’s right to access and use the shore. But the exact location of that public shoreline is... ...Read More

Save The Bay Advocacy Coordinator, Jed Thorp, submits testimony virtually during the 2021 Rhode Island legislative session.

Steps Forward: A 2021 legislative wrap-up

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Despite all the changes in the format of this year’s legislative session, we’re pleased to share that the environmental community saw many steps forward, from addressing climate change to reducing plastic pollution in the Bay.

Despite all the changes in the format of this year’s legislative session, we’re pleased to share that the environmental community saw many steps forward, from addressing climate change to reducing... ...Read More


Save The Bay’s three Waterkeepers engage in the collection and interpretation of data to inform the public and affect policy; urge our public officials to make protection of our most valuable resource a top priority, and hold them accountable for actions that affect Bay quality. As members of the Waterkeeper Alliance, which has more than 300 programs worldwide, Save The Bay’s Waterkeepers are part of a network of specialists with a passion for defending the environment and a devotion to working in their communities.


Mike Jarbeau

As Save The Bay’s “eyes and ears” on Narragansett Bay, the Baykeeper identifies and responds to environmental threats by keeping in close contact with members of the Bay community and with environmental agencies. Save The Bay created the Baykeeper program in 1993 to strengthen our direct action, legal and regulatory watchdogging and pollution response capacity.
See pollution, or another issue, in the Bay? Report it to the Baykeeper:




David Prescott

Our South County Coastkeeper works in the community—both on and off the water—to protect, restore, and promote stewardship of the unique and magnificent waterways of Little Narragansett Bay, the Pawcatuck River, and the South Coast. The Coastkeeper program was launched in 2007 from Save The Bay’s South Coast Center in Westerly, R.I., creating a Save The Bay presence in Southern Rhode Island.
See pollution, or another issue, along the coast? Report it to the Coastkeeper:



Kate McPherson

Our Riverkeeper works to protect, restore, and promote stewardship of the vast network of remarkable rivers within the Narragansett Bay watershed, 60% of which is in Massachusetts. The Riverkeeper program was developed in 2016 to monitor Narragansett Bay’s tributary watershed, including the Blackstone, Ten Mile, Runnins, Palmer, Kickemuit, Cole, Lee and Taunton Rivers.
See pollution, or another issue, in our region’s rivers? Report it to the Riverkeeper:


Action Apps

Report pollution when you see it

Water ReporterThe Water Reporter App is the perfect way to let Save The Bay know when there’s a problem in our local waters. You can be our eyes and noses across the watershed. So if you see or smell anything that might be pollution, snap a photo, write a caption and send it to us on Water Reporter.

Available on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Hold your own shoreline cleanup

Clean Swell AppThe Clean Swell App lets volunteers upload important cleanup data in real-time to the world’s largest marine debris database. This database is used by scientists, conservation groups, governments and industry leaders to study ocean trash and take action to ensure trash never reaches our beaches.

Available on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Report flooding and storm surges

My Coast Logo

The MyCoast App lets you upload pictures that capture the highest tides, show storm damage and erosion and record localized flooding. By recording these events, you’ll help decision-makers, emergency managers and others make better decisions about how to protect our coastal communities and assets.

Available on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

*Please note:  Be sure to access the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus through the main entrance on Harborside Blvd. Your GPS may suggest taking Ernest Street to JWU’s Shipyard Street entrance, but that route requires a key card for entry.  

From Route I-95 North or South, take Exit 18 (Thurbers Avenue). Head downhill on Thurbers Avenue to US Route 1A (Allens Avenue). Turn right onto Allens Ave. Continue southbound on Allens Ave. into Cranston, where Allens Ave. becomes Narragansett Blvd. Turn left onto Harborside Blvd. at the traffic light by the Shell gas station. Follow Harborside Blvd. through the Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus. At the end of Harborside Blvd., turn right onto Save The Bay Drive. Save The Bay Drive becomes a circular, one-way roadway as you approach the Bay Center. Parking is available in four guest lots after you pass the main building. Enter the building through the main entrance.