The Coastal Zone Management Act

Coastal Zone Management ActClimate Change Impacts on Wetlands 2

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) was passed in 1972, creating three national programs: the National Coastal Zone Management Program, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, and the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP).  While the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and CELCP programs were designed to fund and promote protection and study of estuarine systems, the National Coastal Zone Management Program aimed to coordinate State and Federal  management of coastal resources by taking a comprehensive approach to resource use, economic development and natural resource conservation .

National Coastal Zone Management Program

Participation is voluntary, but significant federal resources are made available to states that develop and implement federally approved coastal zone management plans. In  addition, the CZMA authorizes states with approved plans to review certain Federal actions to ensure they are consistent with those plans.

For a state coastal management program to receive approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it must contain a land use component. In terms of land use requirements, at a minimum the state must include within their plan “a definition of what shall constitute permissible land uses and water uses within the coastal zone which have a direct and significant impact on the coastal waters”, “an inventory and designation of areas of particular concern”, and “broad guidelines on priorities of uses in particular areas”( 16 U.S.C § 1445(d)(2) (B), (C), (E)).

States wishing to improve their coastal management programs can receive technical assistance and funding from NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM). OCRM, through the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program, provides funds, known as § 309 grants, to help states develop and implement program changes in nine coastal zone enhancement areas of national significance, which include coastal hazards.

State Variation in National Coastal Zone Management Plans

There is considerable variation from state to state in how these elements are addressed. States with strong planning traditions, such as Florida, incorporate land use planning into their coastal management programs. In most of the Gulf States, however, only the minimum requirements are met; i.e. a list of permissible activities and broad designations of sensitive areas.

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