Section 1: Will Your Project Require a Permit?

You must obtain a Coastal Area Management Act, or CAMA, permit for your project if it meets all of the following conditions:

  • It is in one of the 20 counties covered by CAMA.
  • It is considered "development" under CAMA.
  • It is in, or it affects, an Area of Environmental Concern (AEC) established by the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC).
  • It doesn't qualify for an exemption.

What's the CRC?
The Coastal Resources Commission is a 13-member citizen board appointed by the Governor to establish rules and policies for development within the 20 coastal counties.

The CRC receives guidance from a 20-member Coastal Resources Advisory Council, or CRAC. CRAC members represent local governments, state agencies and other areas of technical expertise. Members of the CRAC are responsible for keeping their appointing bodies up-to-date on CRC activities.

What are the 20 coastal counties covered by CAMA?

If your project is in one of the following 20 counties and is located along the state's rivers, sounds or the Atlantic Ocean, you may need a permit:

New Hanover

Does my project qualify as development?

The Coastal Area Management Act defines development as: "any activity in a duly designated area of environmental concern ... involving, requiring or consisting of the construction or enlargement of a structure; excavation; dredging; filling; dumping; removal of clay, silt, sand, gravel or minerals; bulkheading; driving of pilings; clearing or alteration of land as an adjunct of construction; alteration or removal of sand dunes; alteration of the shore, bank or bottom of the Atlantic Ocean or any sound, bay, river, creek, stream, lake or canal; or placement of a floating structure in an Area of Environmental Concern identified in G.S. 113A-113(b)(2) or (b)(5)" {NCGS 113A-103(5)(a)}.

Is my project in an Area of Environmental Concern?

You're probably in an AEC if your project is:

  • in, or on the shore of, navigable waters within the 20 CAMA counties;
  • on a marsh or wetland;
  • within 75 feet of the normal high water line along an estuarine shoreline;
  • near the ocean beach;
  • near an inlet;
  • within 30 feet of the normal high water level of areas designated as inland fishing waters by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission;
  • near a public water supply;
  • within 575 feet of Outstanding Resource Waters defined by the Environmental Management Commission.

Areas of Environmental Concern are described in detail in the next section of this manual. If you already know that your project is in an AEC and you want to go straight to the application information, turn to Section 5.

When is my project exempt from the CAMA permit requirements?

Section 103(5)(b) of CAMA exempts the following activities:

  • road maintenance within a public right-of-way;
  • utility maintenance on projects that already have CAMA permits;
  • energy facilities covered by other laws or N.C. Utilities Commission rules;
  • agricultural or forestry production that doesn't involve the excavation or filling of estuarine or navigable waters or coastal wetlands (Note: these activities are not exempt from permitting requirements under the state's Dredge and Fill Law.);
  • agricultural or forestry ditches less than 6 feet wide and 4 feet deep;
  • emergency maintenance and repairs when life and property are in danger;
  • the construction of an accessory building usually found with an existing structure, if no filling of estuarine or navigable waters or coastal wetlands is involved.

In addition, CAMA allows the CRC to exempt some types of minor maintenance and improvements. These types of projects, outlined in Section 6, are those with successful track records in protecting the resources around them. In all cases, you should check with the Division of Coastal Management before you begin work to make sure that your project qualifies for an exemption.