Tales of the Coast
Sharing the Coast


Coastal Legislation

The importance of the coastal zone for commercial, residential, and environmental purposes has inspired extensive legislation of coastal lands and waters. A number of Federal agencies oversee the policies affecting the coast, including the Corps, the Federal Emergency Management (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Minerals Management Service (MMS).

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) of 1972 (P.L. 92-583) creates a framework for the management of coastal lands and adjacent water. Through this act states receive grants to implement federally approved management plans. Any Federal projects must also be consistent with a particular state's approved plan for coastal management.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 (P.L. 91-190) mandates environmental reviews of major construction projects. The building of shoreline structures or the implementation of beach nourishment efforts are examples of projects affected by this legislation. NEPA requires detailed environmental impact statements regarding potential projects. Public participation must also be included in the planning process before a recommended plan is set forth for a construction project. Compliance with NEPA is part of the requirements for Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972, as amended, governs the disposal of dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States. The Corps is responsible for issuing permits under this legislation, and any permit application must also comply with the requirements of NEPA. Section 404 permits are needed for projects in the coastal zone such as beach nourishment or filling wetlands.

The Coastal Barriers Improvement Act (CBIA) of 1990 (P.L. 101-591) is the reauthorization of the Coastal Barriers Resources Act of 1982. The original legislation established the Coastal Barriers Resources System to protect undeveloped barrier islands by limiting Federal expenditures for development. Federal funding limitations apply to road construction, flood insurance, and erosion prevention and stabilization projects. Privately funded activities are not regulated by law, and some exemptions exist for Federal projects.

Assateague Island

Assateague Island
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Legislation and Policies

Federal and state laws have been drafted to protect the natural and cultural resources found in the coastal zone and to balance the many competing uses of coastal lands and waters.