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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Coastal Management - Federal Consistency

Coastal Management

Federal Consistency

Because North Carolina’s Coastal Management Program is Federally approved, a number of activities are required to comply with the enforceable policies of the state’s certified coastal management program-- even if those activities do not require CAMA permits under state law.

This "Federal consistency" authority exists under the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act. The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) was enacted on October 27, 1972, to encourage coastal states, such as North Carolina, to develop comprehensive programs to manage and balance competing uses of and impacts to coastal resources. It applies to any activity that is within the state’s coastal zone that may reasonably affect any coastal resource or coastal use within the state’s coastal zone (even if the activity occurs outside of the coastal zone), if the activity:

  • is a federal activity

  • requires a federal license or permit;

  • receives federal money; or

  • is a plan for exploration, development or production from any area leased under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

Such projects must comply with the key elements of North Carolina's Coastal Management Program, which include:

Consistency review by the Division of Coastal Management covers a wide range of projects, such as: proposed wetland fill that requires an Individual Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; expansion of military operations and facilities; acquisition and expansion of Federal wildlife refuges; channel-maintenance dredging projects; and public projects such as highways, and water and sewer lines.

How a consistency decision is made

The consistency review process, for simplicity, can be divided into two classifications, one for Federal activities and the other for non-federal projects that require a federal permit and/or license.

Federal agencies proposing an activity that can reasonably affect a coastal resource or a coastal use are required to submit to DCM a “CONSISTENCY DETERMINATION." For example, if the National Park Services proposes to install a shoreline protective device at Cape Hatteras, then the Park Service will be required to submit a consistency determination documenting how the proposed activity would be considered consistent with the state’s coastal program. Please see DCM's handout on consistency submissions for help with this process. You may also use this sample consistency determination submission for guidance. The state has sixty (60) days to review a consistency determination. The procedures for making such a submission are contained in Subpart “C” of 15 CFR 930.

A non-federal applicant for a federal permit and/or license is required to submit to DCM a “CONSISTENCY CERTIFICATION.” For example, if Acme Construction proposes to fill a wetland in a coastal county and this activity requires a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Permit, then Acme Construction would be required to submit to DCM a “Consistency Certification” document demonstrating how the proposed project would be considered consistent with the State’s Coastal program. DCM's handout on consistency submissions can help you with this process. You may also use this sample consistency certification submission for guidance. The state has six (6) months to review a consistency certification that has been filed as complete. The procedures for making such a submission are contained in Subpart “D” of 15 CFR 930.

Upon receiving a consistency certification submission, DCM will evaluate it for completeness. Please note that DCM may not file a consistency submission complete until the applications for other required state permits have also been filed complete by the other reviewing State agencies. If the consistency submission is determined to be complete, DCM will review the proposed project for conformance with the enforceable policies of the state’s certified coastal management program. As part of this review process, the proposed project is circulated to the public and a variety of state agencies for comment. When the public review period is completed, DCM will consider the comments received. Moreover, please be aware that DCM will not make a final decision on the proposed project until the applicant submits copies of all other required State permits, for example a Section 401 Water Quality Certification and/or Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan. Upon reaching its decision on the proposed project, DCM will issue either a letter of “concurrence” or “objection.”

In the event that a letter of “objection” is issued, DCM and the project proponent may still negotiate a resolution that would allow the project to go forward. Additionally, the project proponent may be entitled to certain mediation/appeal privileges with the Office of Coastal Resource Management (OCRM). OCRM is the Federal agency responsible for overseeing the Coastal Zone Management Act. As such OCRM is responsible for issuing regulations on the consistency process, mediating consistency disputes, and processing consistency appeals to the Secretary of Commerce.

Submission requirements:

When making a submission, we request that one original plus fifteen (15) copies be submitted. DCM distributes copies of each submission to agencies that would have a regulatory interest in the proposed project. The use of CDs rather than paper copies significantly improves the quality of graphics and minimizes the complexity of handling a large volume of paper.

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