Answers to frequently asked questions about Coastal Management enforcement.
Q: Who is responsible for enforcing the Coastal Area Management Act in North Carolina?
A: As part of CAMA, the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) designated Areas of Environmental Concern within the 20 coastal counties and set rules for managing development within these areas. The CRC’s rules are administered by the N.C. Division of Coastal Management (DCM), a part of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The Division of Coastal Management has 14 Coastal Management Representatives who monitor permitted development to ensure compliance with the CRC’s rules. They initiate enforcement action when some person or legal entity undertakes development within an Area of Environmental Concern (AEC) without a valid CAMA permit or if any of their permitted work does not comply with an issued permit. The Division is currently putting a Compliance and Enforcement position in each of the four district offices who will be responsible for the majority of the monitoring and enforcement.
In addition, there are over 75 Local Permit Officers (LPO’s) within the local governments in the 20 coastal counties that implement and enforce CAMA minor development permits and activity.
Q: What kind of fines are assessed for violations?
A: As of Feb. 1, 2008, CRC rules allow a maximum penalty of $10,000 for a major development violation and $1,000 maximum penalty for a minor development violation. In addition, the CRC may also assess up to one-half the amount of the civil penalty, not to exceed $2,500 for major development violations or $1,000 for minor development violations, to recover the costs of investigations and enforcement involved with violations. Previously, the maximum penalty was $2,500 for major development violations and $250 for minor development violations. The average assessment since 2003 is $395.
Q: Where does the money collected for assessments go?
A: Fines collected are deposited into the state’s General Fund and are turned over to local school boards as required by law. Assessments that will be collected for investigative costs will be retained by the Division.
Q: Who is responsible when a violation occurs?
A: The responsible party can include, but is not limited to, the property owner, contractor, authorized agent or controlling entity.
Q: What kind of enforcement “tools” does DCM use to ensure compliance with the CRC’s rules and the State’s dredge and fill law?
A: To ensure that CRC regulations are followed, DCM employs a number of compliance and enforcement tools. Depending on the awareness and willingness of the regulated entity, one tool may prove more effective than the other. DCM staff and Local Permit Officers routinely monitor permitted projects on site to make certain they are being carried out correctly. In addition, DCM staff conduct regular aerial surveillance flights to look for CAMA and dredge and fill violations.
Enforcement is a critical compliance tool that is applied to those who violate environmental standards. Enforcement can escalate from a Notice of Violation (NOV) to a court injunction and even criminal prosecution. If stronger legal remedy is required, then the process becomes long and costly.
Inspections are performed on a regular basis by LPOs and DCM staff. The types of inspections include:
· Routine: Pre-permit site visits and follow-up monitoring of permitted development;
· Complaint driven inspections to investigate reports of CAMA or dredge and fill violations;
· Aerial Surveillance is conducted by DCM staff; and
· Self-audits/Reporting and incidental discoveries.
Other enforcement tools provided by CRC Rule 15A NCAC 7J. 0409 and N.C.G.S. §113A-126 include the authority to issue:
· A Notice of Violation;
· A Cease and Desist Order;
· The restoration of adversely impacted resources to it predevelopment condition;
· Civil Penalties based on degree of impact on resources and/or willfulness; and
· The authority to seek injunctive relief.
Q: How many enforcement actions are usually initiated?
A: Since the year 2000, the Division has issued over 1, 247 Notices of Violation. The yearly average number of violations issued since the year 2000 is 179.
Q: How much civil penalty is typically collected?
A: During the period from January 1, 2000 through December 31, 2006, a total of $243,395 has been collected as a result of civil penalty assessments.
Q: What are the primary objectives of the Division of Coastal Management’s enforcement unit?
A: The primary objective of DCM is resource recovery through restoration or mitigation of the damaged environment. Meeting this objective restores the loss of public resources. A secondary objective is the protection of adjoining riparian property owner rights, including rights of access. If voluntary restoration is unsuccessful, DCM may ask a judge to issue an injunction and may impose criminal penalties.
Q: How long does it take to process an enforcement action from discovery to closure?
A: An uncomplicated violation that requires no restoration can be cited, assessed and collected within a week. Cases involving minor restoration usually take four to six weeks to complete. More extensive restoration can stretch the process from several months to several years. Similarly, cases referred to the Attorney General’s Office can take from several months to several years to complete.
1Data from the DCM Compliance Coordinator’s office.