Oceans & Coastal Resources:
A Briefing Book
Congressional Research Service Report 97-588 ENR
Redistributed as a service of the National Library for the Environment

Managing Coastal Areas

Prepared by Jeffrey A. Zinn

Senior Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division

Issue Definition
Background and Analysis
Coastal Water Quality
Managing Land Uses
Consistency Provision
Status of the Issue
Continuing Concerns
Sources and References for Further Information

Issue Definition

The 1972 Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) created federal incentives for coastal states and territories to plan and manage their coastal resources under several broad guidelines. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Department of Commerce administers the programs authorized by the CZMA. Congress has reauthorized this law several times, most recently in 1996 (P.L. 104-150). This reauthorization will run through FY 1999. The 105th Congress will follow the progress of this program through oversight hearings in the House Resource and Senate Commerce Committees, and through the appropriations process. Possible oversight topics include federal and state program operation, coastal water quality, and the status of efforts to develop programs by the eligible states that are not participating at this time.

Background and Analysis

Over 60% of the U.S. population live within 50 miles of one of its coasts (including the Great Lakes). This increasing population concentration has resulted in greater residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational uses of coastal sites. This greater coastal use has resulted in degraded coastal water quality, smaller populations of and less diversity in coastal wildlife, adverse changes to coastal ecosystems, decreased open space for public use, and increased shoreline erosion.

The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA; P.L. 92-583) established a role for the federal government to assist states in planning for the management of coastal resources. Other federal programs related to coastal planning for management, and discussed in other sections of this briefing book, protect or manage coastal barriers, flood plains, wetlands, water quality, fisheries, and estuaries.

The CZMA has provided grants for the development of state coastal zone management (CZM) plans, which the federal government must approve. To date, 30 of 35 eligible coastal states and territories have federally approved CZM plans and others are working to prepare acceptable plans. Texas operates the most recently-approved plan (December 1996), and Ohio's plan is likely to be approved in May or June of 1997. Approved plans encompass more than 95,000 miles of coastline, over 95% of the national total. Once approved, coastal states and territories then have a mechanism for managing coastal development and become eligible for additional financial benefits through coastal zone grant programs and the Estuarine Research Reserves Program. In addition to the availability of these grants, another major incentive for participation is the requirement that federal activities in or affecting the coastal zone be "consistent" with approved CZM plans.

The 104th Congress reauthorized CZMA through FY1999, with appropriations increasing from $47.6 million in FY1997 to $50.5 million in FY1999. The reauthorization included several relatively minor amendments to the law. The most significant of these would require the Secretary of Commerce to respond within 90 days when a state appeals a consistency determination and provide assistance to the states working on developing a program through FY1999. The reauthorization passed both chambers without a dissenting vote.

Amendments to the CZMA have reflected changing concerns about the coast and its resources. In the late 1970s, amendments dealt with coastal development to support offshore energy resource extraction, in the 1980s, they added new topics and new opportunities to the grant program for those participants who wanted to do more than meet the minimum requirements, and they upgraded the estuarine sanctuary system, and in the 1990s, they added nonpoint water quality enhancement to program activities.

Coastal Water Quality

Water quality is controlled primarily through state-run regulatory programs administered by the EPA under the Clean Water Act (CWA). These programs have focused primarily on point sources. Many proponents of a program for improved coastal water quality maintain that control of nonpoint sources of pollution is vital and that the CZMA is an important adjunct to state programs under §319 of the CWA for controlling nonpoint pollution sources in coastal areas.

CZMA provisions require each state with an approved CZM program to develop a Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control (CNPC) Program through its existing §306 authority. States have submitted their programs, which must be implemented through authorities contained in both the CWA and CZMA, and be approved by both the EPA and NOAA. Conditional approval has been given to most states. States who do not submit an acceptable program could lose a graduated portion of their state management funding grants under §306 as well as CWA §319 funding. Significantly, the Congress required coastal states to implement their programs using guidance developed by EPA; and to include the mechanisms necessary to enforce nonpoint pollution management measures. The last year in which the pollution control program was shown as a separate budget entry, FY 1995, participants received a total of $5 million, with the largest grants being $250,000.

Managing Land Uses

State CZM programs are supported by several grant programs.

Administrative Grants under §306 of the Act are the primary funding for state programs. States may receive between $2.5 million and $0.5 million, depending on population and shoreline characteristics. States must provide matching grants. In FY 1997, participants received a total of $41 million.

Resource Management Improvement Grants, under §306A of the Act, are intended to help coastal states to preserve or restore certain coastal areas, to redevelop urban waterfronts and ports, and to provide access to public beaches and coastal waters. States that are making satisfactory progress in implementing their plans under §306 are eligible for these grants. Section 306A grants can be used for land acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, or education projects. The state must match these grants. For FY 1997, no funds were allocated to states under §306 A.

Coastal Zone Management Fund, under §308 of the Act, was established in the 1990 reauthorization to provide grants to states for a variety of activities, including regional and interstate projects, demonstration projects, and emergency grants. The fund consists of state repayments of loans made in the 1970s and 1980s to help states offset impacts from development of offshore energy resources. Amounts in the Fund must be used to pay federal program administrative costs first; the remainder can go to these grants. No funds have been provided to participants since FY 1995, when $1.250 million was allocated.

Coastal Zone Enhancement Grants, under §309 of the Act, provide participating states with the opportunity to compete for additional federal funds to strengthen their programs in nine areas:

NOAA awards these grants based on a review of state programs. The grants are funded from 10 to 20% of §306 funds set aside, up to a maximum of $10 million. No state match is required. In FY 1997, $6.7 million was provided to participants.

Consistency Provision

The CZMA contains provisions that require various federal activities affecting the coastal zone to be "consistent ... to the maximum extent practicable" with a state's CZM plan. While almost all consistency determinations have been reached with little controversy, application of the consistency provision to federal OCS oil and gas leasing activities has created considerable debate.

Coastal state interests had been concerned that their input into the federal OCS leasing process was inadequately considered and that amending the CZMA to require a lease sale to be "consistent" with a state's CZM plan would assure protection of their interests. The Interior Department and the oil industry argued that a lease sale should not be subject to consistency requirements because it does not directly affect the coastal zone; only exploration and development/production activities do. In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Interior Department/oil industry position. The 1990 reauthorization contained a provision that reversed this ruling, requiring that OCS lease sales be consistent with state CZM plans.

While Congress addressed its consistency amendment principally to the Supreme Court ruling, other consistency issues, such as ocean dumping, were also affected. This amendment established a generally applicable rule that any federal agency activity may be subject to the CZMA consistency requirement. The congressional conferees dropped provisions listing specific federal activities (such as ocean dumping), because they were concerned that listing some activities could be interpreted to mean that all unlisted activities would be exempt.

Status of the Issue

The 1996 reauthorization has been completed. In the 105th Congress, the House Resources Committee or the Senate Commerce Committee may wish to hold oversight hearings. As NOAA moves toward final approval of state nonpoint pollution plans, Congress may consider reviewing the coordination between NOAA and the EPA.

Continuing Concerns

These concerns and questions are provided to stimulate further discussion of the issues noted above.

  1. How are the programs created in the 1990 amendments working? How have states integrated them into the existing §306 state grants program?
  2. What is the status of efforts by each of the states that currently does not have an approved CZM program to develop one? In what ways, if any, have the new program development incentives provided in the 1990 CZMA reauthorization stimulated these efforts? Should additional funding for program development be made available to these states after FY1999? Can the current incentives be reduced or eliminated?
  3. How will states likely implement their Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Programs? Will Congress amend the Clean Water Act to complement the CNPC?
  4. How are the NOAA and EPA estuarine protection programs coordinated? How might research improve coastal management efforts?

Sources and References for Further Information

Center for Urban and Regional Studies. Evaluation of the National Coastal Zone Management Program. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 1991. 215 p.

Coast Alliance. Healthy Coasts, Healthy Environment. Washington, D.C: 1995. 24 p.

Godschalk, David R. "Implementing Coastal Zone Management: 1972-1990." Coastal Management, 20(2). April-June 1992.

U.S. Congress, House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, Subcommittee on Oceanography and Great Lakes. Coastal Zone Management, Part II. Hearing, 101st Cong., 2nd Sess. Mar.22, 1990. Washington, DC: U.S. Govt. Print. Off, 1991. Serial No.101-77.

U.S. Congress, House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, Subcommittee on Oceanography, Gulf of Mexico, and the Outer Continental Shelf. Coastal Zone Management Pro gram Reauthorization--Part II. Hearing, 103rd Cong. 1st Sess. Washington, DC: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1994. Serial No.103-113.

------. Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990. Hearing, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess. June 28, 1994. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off, 1994. Serial No.103-115.

U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. 1994-1995 Biennial Report to Congress on the Administration of the Coastal Zone Management Act. 2 vol. Washington, DC: September 1996.


25 Prepared by David Whiteman, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division.

26 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq., 1968.

27 Prepared by Jeffrey A. Zinn, Senior Analyst in Natural Resources Policy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division.

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