Specific Provisions

The CZMA provides for coastal zone management programs and specifies its applicability.

State Coastal Zone Management Programs

To promote its policies, the CZMA requires states to develop coastal management programs to meet the performance standards prescribed in it. An acceptable state coastal program must, at a minimum, provide for:

1. The protection of wetlands, floodplains, estuaries, beaches, dunes, barrier islands, coral reefs, and fish and wildlife and their habitat within the coastal zone

2. The management of coastal development in hazardous areas to minimize loss to life and property

3. Priority consideration given to coastal-dependant uses and an orderly process for situating major facilities related to defense, energy, fisheries development, recreation, ports and transportation, and the location, to the maximum extent practicable, of new commercial and industrial developments in or adjacent to areas where such development exists

4. Public access to the coast for recreational purposes

5. Assistance in redevelopment of waterfronts and other aesthetic, cultural, and historic coastal features

6. Coordination of government decision-making regarding the coastal zone, and coordination with federal agencies

7. Public participation in coastal management decision-making

8. Comprehensive planning, conservation, and management for living resources (CZMA §303[2][A-K], 16 USC §1452[2][A-K])

Many states with coastal management programs have implemented coastal area permit programs which regulate development in the coastal zone. Typically, states establish criteria which an applicant must meet. For example, in California and North Carolina, permits are required for activities that affect designated areas such as wetlands, estuaries, and shorelines. Permit requirements vary from state to state. However, the permitting process generally serves as a review of projects which may create detrimental effects to a state's coastal zone. Permits are enforced through the surveillance and monitoring of permitted projects.


The act applies only to areas designated as the coastal zone. This area varies from state to state and, consequently, from program to program. The CZMA adopts the territorial sea as its seaward or outermost limit. This limit extends three nautical miles from the shore and, according to federal law, all of the submerged lands and resources within that area are owned by the states. The inland boundary, however, is the portion of the coastal zone which varies. The act calls for the coastal zone to extend "only to the extent necessary to control shorelands, the uses of which have a direct and significant impact on the coastal waters" (CZMA §304[1], 16 USC §1453[1]). Thus, the coastal zone can include an entire state, such as Florida or Hawaii, or it can be a much smaller portion of land.

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