CAMA Handbook for Development

How to Use This Guide

PDF Version of Handbook for Printing

This handbook is designed to help you understand what types of projects require CAMA development permits, the development regulations you will have to follow, and how following those rules helps protect the natural resources that draw people to North Carolina's coastal counties in the first place.

Although this guide discusses regulations, it is not an official statement of North Carolina coastal development regulations and may not be relied on in lieu of those regulations in undertaking coastal development. All coastal development projects subject to CAMA must be approved by the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.

A list of Coastal Management offices is in Section 9 of this guide. An unofficial version of the development rules may be found on the DCM website. You may obtain a certified copy of the individual rules from the Office of Administrative Hearings at 919-431-3000.


The North Carolina coast may seem indestructible, but it's not. Left unmanaged, development around our state's sounds, rivers and beaches can destroy the very ecological, aesthetic and economic features that draw people to our shore.

In 1972, Congress passed the Coastal Zone Management Act, which encouraged states to keep our coasts healthy by establishing programs to manage, protect and promote our country's fragile coastal resources. Two years later, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the landmark Coastal Area Management Act, known as CAMA. CAMA established the Coastal Resources Commission, required local land use planning in 20 coastal counties and provided for a program for regulating development. The North Carolina Coastal Management Program was federally approved in 1978.

As a part of this program, the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) designated "Areas of Environmental Concern" within the 20 coastal counties and set rules for managing development within these areas. An Area of Environmental Concern, or AEC, is an area of natural importance: It may be easily destroyed by erosion or flooding; or it may have environmental, social, economic or aesthetic values that make it valuable to our state.

The CRC's rules are administered by the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, a part of the state Department of Environmental Quality.

About This Guide

This handbook is a guide to the permit program set up by the CRC. It is designed for those who want to develop or build in the 20 coastal North Carolina counties. Because rules change, regulations are often more complicated than outlined here and every project is different, you should always contact the Division of Coastal Management before you begin development on or near the coast.

Living and building in coastal North Carolina without destroying the natural systems around us or putting our lives in danger is a challenge. By following the standards set by the Coastal Area Management Act and the CRC, you can protect our coastal resources as well as your own development project.