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NCRI Publication No. NCRI-W-91-003



The Center for Urban and Regional Studies
of the Department of City and Regional Planning
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599

February 1991


JUN 2 5 1992

This project was funded by the National Coastal Resources Research and Development Institute,
Newport, Oregon, under Contract No. 2-5633-01 and by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource
Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce,
Washington, D.C., through a grant made under Section 309 of the Coastal Zone Management Act
of 1972, as amended, and printed through Grant No. NA 16RG0167-01 by the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.

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This study concludes that the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) has met with great success in the nearly two decades since it was first signed into law. The states and territories which have chosen to participate in the program have seen vast improvement in many aspects of the management of their coastlines, in both economic and noneconomic terms. This report demonstrates that these coastal activity-related benefits have a direct relationship with federal CZMA expenditures, and that the value of continued federal support for coastal management at the state and territorial level cannot be underestimated.

The first chapter of this study addresses the question: "How have the nation's coastal resources been managed under CZMA?" by presenting an overview of the history of the program carried out under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972. This chapter emphasizes that, since its inception, the CZM program has been distinguished by its voluntary nature, using incentives instead of penalties to generate a unique federal/state/local partnership in which the states have considerable latitude to define their own priorities. It is likely that the nature of the partnership will continue to be an issue, with the coastal states seeking program flexibility and autonomy and the federal government seeking program focus and accountability. From this creative tension, as well as the longstanding tension between coastal conservation and development, future United States coastal management programs will evolve.

As the CZM program enters the 1990s, it clearly continues to be a dynamic, flexible and effective vehicle for addressing coastal issues. While the institutional structure at the federal level remains split among several agencies and programs, the “coastal management” concept has proven powerful enough to facilitate coordination, albeit with some friction. A testament to the power and importance of the concept is its ability to survive two terms in the 1980s under a hostile administration and to retain a vital programmatic focus into the 1990s. Review of its history shows that the CZMA of 1972 sired a unique and durable program whose life span already has exceeded that of many other intergovernmental planning initiatives.

The second chapter of the report deals with the consistency provisions of Section 307 of the CZMA, and the role that federal consistency has played in coastal management. One very important, although often overlooked aspect of the CZMA is its voluntary nature. Because states are not required to establish coastal management programs, their participation had to be secured by offering them 1) substantial federal financial assistance, and 2) the promise that, if the states underwent the complicated program development and approval process prescribed in the federal Act to establish legally-enforceable standards and procedures to protect the coastal zone and its resources, federal agencies and permittees engaged in activities affecting the coastal zone would act consistently with such standards. This promise" is of course the heart of the federal consistency provisions of the CZMA.

However, the past decade has demonstrated that the federal consistency doctrine is not merely an appendage of the main body of coastal management practice in the United States, meant to serve as an incentive to states to participate in the CZMA. Rather, the consistency provisions constitute an essential mechanism for securing the compliance of federal agencies and permittees with legally enforceable state coastal policies. Without the federal consistency provisions, federally permitted and conducted activities that affect coastal areas and resources could be carried out with little or no regard for state coastal policies.

Implementation of the CZMA's consistency section has been generally successful. The body of consistency decisions by the Secretary of Commerce appears to strike a balance between state interest under the CZMA and coastal programs, and national economic and security interests. Based on this record, it is clear that federal development projects in the coastal zone, as well as private development projects that require a federal permit, are subject to state coastal management

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