North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
NC Division of Coastal Management
NC Coast Scene

CAMA Handbook for Development in Coastal North Carolina :: Section 4

Section 4: Rules for Specific Types of Projects

(These projects all require CAMA permits. Types of projects are listed alphabetically, not by AEC category)

Beach Bulldozing

(Also see Oceanfront Erosion Response)

Beach bulldozing is a common method of oceanfront erosion management that moves beach sand from areas seaward of the first line of natural, stable vegetation to repair storm damage to an existing dune or to create a protective berm for an imminently threatened structure.  

Beach bulldozing can be authorized through several CAMA permit processes depending upon the circumstances and conditions on your particular site.

Under a CAMA General Permit, sand movement is limited to the beach area above the Normal High Water line.
A CAMA Minor Permit for beach bulldozing allows work to the Normal High Water.

If your project exceeds the scope of the General or Minor Permit use standards or requires the movement of sand that is seaward of the Normal High Water Line, then a CAMA Major Permit and a State Dredge and Fill Permit will be required. You should contact your DCM District Office for assistance. Any work performed waterward of Normal High Water also requires a federal permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

CAMA Permit conditions will vary according to site conditions and type of permit, but in all cases the following permit conditions shall apply (Figure 4.1):

  • In order to minimize adverse impacts to nesting sea turtles, no work shall occur within the period of May 1 through Nov. 15 without prior approval from the Division of Coastal Management, in coordination with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

  • The project should maintain a slope similar to normal conditions. The slope, or grade, of the project must not be so steep that it endangers the public or interferes with public use of the beach.

  • The beach profile may not be lowered more than one foot as measured from the existing surface elevation.

  • Beach bulldozing must not extend past the lateral boundary of your property, unless you have permission from the neighboring landowner.

  • Beach bulldozing must not significantly increase erosion on neighboring properties or adversely affect important natural or cultural resources.

Figure 4.1

Illustration of beach bulldozing


All of the above permits are issued to property owners to repair existing dunes and dune systems following an erosion event. The Coastal Area Management Act exempts beach bulldozing from the permit process when it is done to protect imminently threatened structures by the creation of protective sand dunes, A structure shall be considered imminently threatened if its foundation, septic system, or right‑of‑way in the case of roads, is less than 20 feet away from the erosion scarp. Property owners who believe their structure is imminently threatened must contact a CAMA representative for consultation and a site visit prior to beginning work. This exempt authorization is subject to the above listed conditions, and any work performed below the Normal High Water line still needs federal authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   

Beach Nourishment (Oceanfront)

(Also see Oceanfront Erosion Response)

Ocean beach nourishment must meet the general rules for development in the Ocean Hazard AEC as well as the following standards:

  • Sand used for beach nourishment must be similar in quality and grain size to sand in the area being nourished. Pursuant to 15A NCAC 07H .0312 TECHNICAL STANDARDS FOR BEACH FILL PROJECTS, sediment samples must be taken from both the borrow site and recipient beach to determine if the sediment source is compatible. The cited rule provides an objective definition of sediment compatibility for beach fill projects, and outlines specific protocols for sampling the beach scheduled to receive nourishment and the proposed borrow site in order to correctly characterize the material found there.

  • Sand may not be taken from sensitive natural areas or areas where it willcause more than a minimal environmental effect.

  • In order to minimize adverse impacts to nesting sea turtles, no work shall occur within the period of May 1 through Nov. 15 without prior approval from the Division of Coastal Management, in coordination with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

  • The project should maintain a slope similar to normal conditions. The slope, or grade, of the project must not be so steep that it endangers the public or interferes with public use of the beach.

Beach Walkways

(Also see Oceanfront Construction)

Beach walkways make it easier to get to the beach without damaging dunes, which play a vital role in maintaining the structure and safety of North Carolina's barrier islands and beaches, and helping to protect property from flooding and erosion. A CAMA permit is required to construct a beach walkway.  Beach walkways are not subject to CAMA oceanfront setback requirements.

To ensure that the dune system is not damaged when a walkway is built, you must follow the following guidelines in addition to the general use standards for the ocean hazard AEC {15A NCAC 7H .0308}:

Figure 4.2

Illustration showing proper placement of beach walkway

    • Walkways must be for pedestrian use only.

    • Walkways must be no wider than 6 feet.

    • Walkways wider than 6 feet or not for pedestrian use may be permitted if they meet a public need that cannot be met in other ways. (Note: This standard does not apply to public fishing piers if they meet all other applicable standards.)

    • Walkways should be elevated to allow dunes to adjust naturally to wind and wave forces, maintaining the stability of the protective dune system. Walkways must be on posts or pilings embedded to a depth of 5 feet or less, so that when possible, only the posts – not the walkway itself – touch the frontal dune. Walkways may touch the dune only to the extent necessary.

    • Walkways won't be allowed if they weaken the dune's protection against flooding and erosion (see Figure 4.2, above).

    • Any vegetation disturbed in the construction of a walkway must be replanted as quickly as possible.

    • Walkways are not eligible for sandbag protection.

    Boat Ramps

    Boat ramps provide access to coastal waters. Ramps for private use may be constructed under a CAMA general permit if they meet the general rules for coastal shorelines, estuarine and public trust waters, and the following specific conditions {15A NCAC 7H .1305}:

    • Boat ramps must not be wider than 15 feet and must not extend farther than 20 feet below the normal high water level contour in tidal areas or the normal water level contour in nontidal areas.

    • Excavation and ground-disturbing activities above and below the normal high water level or normal water level will be limited to that absolutely necessary to establish adequate ramp slope and provide a ramp no greater in size than specified by the general permit.

    • Placement of fill materials below the normal high water level, or normal water level contour, will be limited to the ramp structure itself. Boat ramps may be constructed of concrete, wood, steel, clean riprap, marl or any other acceptable materials approved by DCM personnel.

    • Coastal wetland vegetation must not be excavated or filled at any time during construction and subsequent use of the ramp.

    Construction of larger or commercial boat ramps require a major permit.

    Bulkheads and Estuarine Shoreline Stabilization

    Shoreline erosion is common along North Carolina's broad sounds and tidal rivers, and many waterfront property owners look for methods to slow or prevent it. The Estuarine Shoreline Stabilization section of DCM’s website provides property owners with a simple interactive guide to help determine the best stabilization method for a particular shoreline. There are several approved methods for stabilizing estuarine shorelines.

    1. Planting vegetation along the estuarine shoreline is the cheapest and most environmentally sound stabilization method. Plants slow wave energy and trap sediments. They also increase the marsh habitat and provide food for lower organisms such as algae and seaweeds, finfish and shellfish, mammals and shorebirds.
    Because of the variety of shoreline types and plant species in North Carolina estuaries, your project should be evaluated for the appropriateness of planting vegetation and for specifics on how to plant properly. If the shoreline does not require preparation – i.e. grading – a permit is not required for planting vegetation. For large projects or for projects on areas that need preparation, contact Coastal Management, and check with the North Carolina Sea Grant Program for information about plantings. (See Section 9 for contact information.)

    2. Stone riprap or revetments also dissipate some wave action, but they often increase erosion along the front and sides of the revetment. Because the stones or rocks of a revetment will settle and readjust with storms or waves, riprap material must be heavy enough or securely tied down to remain in place through storms and normal tidal and wave movement. In fresh water, you can further stabilize riprap sites by planting vegetation in the spaces between the stone using soil bioengineering techniques.

    Riprap material must be clean and free of pollutants. Although riprap causes less habitat destruction and loss than permanent seawalls, riprap replaces soft bottom habitat with hard bottom habitat, and it changes plant and animal diversity and abundance.

    3. Sills are shore-parallel, wood or rock structures that are designed to protect existing or newly planted wetland vegetation. A sill is placed offshore of existing marsh to help reduce the erosion of the waterward edge (escarpment). If there is not marsh already on the property, a sill is placed just offshore of where marsh would or could grow and is planted. The sill helps to protect the marsh by dissipating enough wave energy so that the marsh can establish. Once established, the marsh grasses dissipate wave energy and wave height through friction and drag, and help to reduce erosion further inland (usually on the high ground). Marsh vegetation also increases the marsh habitat and provides food for the lower organisms such as algae and seaweeds, finfish and shellfish, mammals and shorebirds.

    4. Groins are straight and usually shore-perpendicular structures, constructed with stone (riprap) or as a freestanding vertical wall to trap sand along one side. Trapped sand becomes a wave energy dissipation zone during daily wave action or sacrificial buffer during storms. Groins can be constructed either singly or in a series. Groins function only when longshore transport of sand (movement of sand along a shoreline) occurs and thus traps sand. Groins produce accretion of beach material along the updrift side and erosion on the downdrift side. A saw-toothed shaped shoreline is created with a series of groins. The trapped sand is commonly “stolen” from somewhere downdrift, which then in turn accelerates erosion downdrift of your property. 

    5. Bulkheads or vertical retaining walls are not the most desirable method of shoreline stabilization, because they can encroach into estuarine waters or public trust areas and can prevent the natural landward migration of coastal wetlands. Although bulkheads block or reflect wave energy, they also may block normal sand migration, increasing erosion along the front and sides of the wall. In addition, bulkheads can lead to the destruction of shallow-water habitat.
    Bulkheads must follow the general CAMA rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas, and the following specific guidelines {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(7)}:

    • Where possible, sloping riprap or vegetation should be used rather than vertical bulkheads.  Riprap and vegetation can be less expensive and more effective at slowing erosion than bulkheads, depending on the characteristics of the shoreline. Sloping shoreline structures help dissipate wave energy as a wave strikes the shoreline, reducing the wave's ability to carry away soil. Vertical bulkheads do not dissipate wave energy as well; they can direct that energy to adjacent properties and to the base of the bulkhead, causing additional erosion and damage.

    • To keep the shoreline stable, shoreline stabilization measures should be aligned with, or landward of, the normal high water or normal water level (see Figure 4.4). The normal water level is the ordinary extent of high tide, based on the location of the apparent high tide line and site conditions, such as the presence and location of vegetation that is distributed by tides (wrack line). Shoreline stabilization measures located waterward of this line encroach on the public's right of access to those lands and waters.

    Figure 4.4

    Illustration showing proper bulkhead alignment


      • Bulkheads or other shoreline stabilization structures may be permitted below the normal water level if all of the conditions below are met:

        • The property has an identifiable erosion problem or has unusual features, such as a steep bank;

        • Coastal Management has documented the need for shoreline stabilization below the normal water line;

        • The shoreline stabilization measure extends beyond the normal water line no more than necessary to: resolve the hardship resulting from unusual features; align with adjacent shoreline stabilization measures; or allow backfill of the area eroded in the year before the date of the permit application;

        • The shoreline stabilization measure will not significantly impair public trust rights or damage adjacent waterfront properties; and

        • The property is not on the oceanfront.

      • If you are installing a shoreline stabilization measure, you must build the structure landward of marsh areas (see Figure 4.5). In those areas where a shoreline stabilization measure is proposed immediately waterward of the marsh, it may be allowed if it is placed no more than 6 inches above the elevation of the adjacent marsh substrate, and involves no backfilling or altering of the wetland. Marshes are vital to the health and productivity of fish and shellfish, and they depend on regular flooding for nutrients and for carrying away sediments and pollutants. Bulkheads may block this essential exchange and stimulate the gradual filling of the state's coastal wetlands.

      • If you are installing a shoreline stabilization measure with backfill, the fill material must be from an approved upland source – not the state's wetlands, estuarine beaches, or sound and river bottoms. All backfill material must be confined behind the structure.

      Figure 4.5

      Illustration showing bulkhead placed landward of marsh

      Excavation of Channels, Canals and Boat Basins

      Navigation channels, canals and boat basins are common along the coast's sounds, rivers and creeks. Navigation projects enhance our state's coastal waters for boating or fishing. But if they are poorly designed, navigation projects can disturb shellfish beds and fish nursery areas, damage wetlands or accelerate shoreline erosion.

      You must meet the following specific development regulations for navigation channels {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(1)}, in addition to the general rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas:

      • Navigation channels, canals and boat basins must avoid primary nursery areas, highly productive shellfish beds, beds of submerged aquatic vegetation and marshes.

      • Navigation channels and canals can be allowed through narrow fringes of regularly and irregularly flooded coastal wetlands, provided they do not significantly damage fishery resources, water quality or adjacent wetlands and if no reasonable alternative exists.

      • A canal or channel must be the smallest width possible to meet your needs and provide adequate water circulation.

      • Canals, channels and basins must not cause water quality problems. This standard ensures that water can flow freely, and won't stagnate and concentrate pollutants.

      • Canals and channels should be designed to prevent shoreline erosion on adjoining properties.

      • Septic tanks are not allowed on the shores of canals serving more than one residence, unless they meet standards set by the Division of Water Quality and the Division of Environmental Health. Such septic systems may not have point-source discharges, and the development must have stormwater routing and retention systems, such as grassed swales and settling basins. This reduces the discharge of sewage and other pollutants into canals, where water moves slowly and has a decreased capacity to dissipate harmful materials.

      • No canal or boat basin may be deeper than its connecting channels. Canals or boat basins deeper than adjoining channels can allow sediment and pollution to build up in the basin.

      • Boat basins should be designed with the widest possible opening and the shortest possible entrance to promote flushing and exchange of waters. The depth of a boat basin should decrease from the waterward end to the landward end (see Figure 4.6).

      Figure 4.6

      Illustration of proper basin openingsThere are two common methods of excavating and maintaining navigation channels, canals and boat basins: mechanical dredging and hydraulic dredging.

      Mechanical Dredging is used to construct and maintain navigation channels and boat basins, allowing boats to use coastal waters safely. But improperly placed dredged material (spoil) can smother coastal wetlands, shellfish beds and fish spawning and nursery areas, and can release pollutants into estuarine waters.

      To qualify for a CAMA permit, your dredging project must meet the general CAMA regulations for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas.

      • All dredged material from the construction or maintenance of a canal, channel or basin must be confined inland of regularly or irregularly flooded coastal wetlands and must be stabilized to prevent sediment from entering adjacent marshes or waterways.

      • Dredging in primary nursery areas and beds of submerged aquatic vegetation is prohibited, unless maintenance excavation is essential to maintain a traditional and established use in these areas. In order to conduct maintenance excavation in these areas:

      • You must meet certain criteria, and you must present clear evidence that you can meet those criteria when you apply for a permit.

      • You must prove that the project is water-dependent, the channel has been continuously used for a specific purpose, and the disposal of dredged material will not harm coastal resources.

      Hydraulic Dredging

      Because hydraulic dredging increases the potential for environmental impacts, special rules apply {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(2)}:

      • Dredged material (spoil) must be confined on high ground by retaining structures or deposited on ocean beaches if the spoil is suitable. Dredged materials confined on high ground must be placed inland of any marshland and should be stabilized to keep sediments from entering adjacent waters or wetlands.

      • The end of the dredge pipeline should be set far enough into the disposal area to keep the containment dike from eroding and far enough from the spillway to allow suspended sediments to settle evenly throughout the disposal area. (see Figure 4.7A).

      • Effluent from a diked spoil disposal area must be carried by a pipe, trough or similar device to a point in the water past visible vegetation or below the normal low water line. When possible, you must return effluent to the area being dredged (see Figure 4.7B).

      • A water control structure must be installed at the intake end of the effluent pipe to allow for the settling of suspended sediments, which restricts the flow of sediment into adjacent marshes and waterways (see Figure 4.8).

      • Effluent from diked disposal areas holding spoil from closed shellfish waters must not be returned to open shellfish waters. This practice keeps the contaminants found in closed shellfish waters from reaching non-polluted shellfish beds, spawning and nursery areas, and submerged vegetation beds.

      Figure 4.7

      Illustration of dredge-spoil disposal area

      Figure 4.8

      Illustration of water control structure for spoil disposal area

      Docks and Piers

      Piers and docking facilities serve important functions along the coast, allowing access to water for recreational and commercial boating, swimming, diving, fishing and transportation. If poorly designed, however, piers and docking facilities can obstruct navigation and the water circulation that sustains an estuary's natural systems.

      The type of permit you will need for a piers or docking facilities varies with the size of the structure. See the tables in Appendix A to help you determine the type of permit you may need.

      All piers and docking facilities must meet the general CAMA rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas and the following specific regulations {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(6)}:

      Figure 4.9

      • Illustration depicting limits on pier lengthPiers cannot be wider than 6 feet. Wider piers may be permitted only if the greater width is necessary for safe use, to improve public access, or to support a water-dependent use that cannot otherwise occur.

      • Piers in existence on or before July 1, 2001, may be braced with additional pilings and crossbeams to prevent or minimize storm damage, as long as the pilings do not extend more than 2 feet beyond either side of the pier.

      • Piers and docking facilities extending more than 100 feet past the marsh vegetation or the shoreline must not extend beyond the length of existing piers used for similar purposes along the same shoreline.

      • Piers and docking facilities must not extend into the channel portion of the water body.

      • Piers and docking facilities must not extend more than one-fourth the width of a natural water body or man-made canal or basin (see Figure 4.9), except in cases where there is a federally established pier-head line or if the pier is located between longer piers within 200 feet of your property. However, if you qualify for one of these exceptions, your pier cannot be longer than adjacent piers and cannot in any case extend more than one-third the width of the water body.

      Figure 4.10

      Illustration of riparian corridors

      • Pier and docking facility alignments along federally maintained channels must meet U.S. Army Corps of Engineers guidelines, available from the Corps' district office in Wilmington.

      • The total square footage of shaded impact for docks and mooring facilities (excluding the pier) allowed shall be 8 square feet per linear foot of shoreline with a maximum of 2,000 square feet.  In calculating the shaded impact, uncovered open water slips shall not be counted in the total. See the tables in Appendix A for more information.

      • Piers and docking facilities must be elevated at least 3 feet over the coastal wetland substrate, as measured from the bottom of the decking.

      • Boathouses may not be larger than 400 square feet, unless you can demonstrate a need for a larger boathouse. (A larger boathouse requires a major permit.)

      • Boathouse walls may cover only the top half of the boathouse (from the roofline). The bottom half must remain open.

      • Boathouses are not allowed on lots with less than 75 linear feet of shoreline.

      • The total area of a boat lift cannot be larger than 400 square feet, unless you can demonstrate a need for a larger boat lift.

      • Piers and docking facilities must be single-story. They may have roofs, but must not be designed for second-story use.

      • Piers and docking facilities must not interfere with access to any riparian property and shall have a setback of at least 15 feet between any part of the pier and the adjacent property owners' areas of riparian access. The dividing line for areas of riparian access shall be established by drawing a line along the channel or deep water in front of the properties, then drawing a line perpendicular to the line of the channel so that it intersects with the shore at the point the upland property line meets the water's edge (see Figure 4.10). The 15-foot setback requirement may be waived by a written agreement of the adjacent riparian property owners or when owners apply for a CAMA permit together.

      • In areas where the shoreline is irregular, such as the end of a canal, DCM field representatives are responsible for determining the projection of the riparian property lines into the water, and will assist property owners in determining pier alignment.

      • Piers and docking facilities  must not significantly interfere with water flows, which could lead to the accumulation of pollutants along the shoreline or accelerate shoreline erosion. Piers and docking facilities with open-spaced pilings allow water to circulate freely.

      • Piers and docking facilities must not interfere with shellfish leases or franchises. You must provide notice of the permit application or exemption request for a pier or docking facility to the owner of any part of a shellfish franchise or lease that the proposed pier or docking facility would cover. The Division of Marine Fisheries has information on the location of these shellfish beds and leaseholders.

      Dune Creation and Stabilization (Ocean Hazard Area only)

      Sand dunes provide a natural buffer against the erosive forces of wind, water and waves. Sometimes it's necessary to stabilize or strengthen existing sand dunes or build new ones to protect oceanfront buildings and roads. Dune establishment and stabilization projects must be thoughtfully planned and carried out to avoid damaging the beach and dune system.

      Dune creation and stabilization projects must meet the general rules for ocean hazard AECs as well as the following standards {15A NCAC 7H Section .0308(b)}:

      Figure 4.11

      • Illustration showing proper dune alignment

      • Man-made dunes must be aligned with existing adjacent dune ridges and be of similar shape (see Figure 4.11).

      • Existing primary and frontal dunes may not be broadened or extended oceanward, except during beach nourishment projects or emergency situations authorized by the Division of Coastal Management.

      • Dune building must not damage existing vegetation. You must immediately replant or otherwise stabilize the dunes if vegetation is harmed.

      • Sand used to create dunes must be similar in quality and grain size to existing sand, so it will improve potential stability of the existing sand and build stable dunes and be compatible with the existing environment.

      • Dunes may not be created in inlet hazard areas.

      • Sand in any dune other than the frontal or primary dune may be redistributed within the AEC if it is not placed farther oceanward than the crest of the primary dune or landward of the toe of the frontal dune.


      A groin is an erosion-control structure built perpendicular to the shoreline. Often used on a small scale along the shores of North Carolina's sounds and tidal rivers to protect individual properties, wooden and riprap groins offer protection from gradual erosion by slowing wave action and trapping sand. (Groins are not authorized along the oceanfront.)

      Figure 4.12

      Illustration of proper groin placementHowever, the effectiveness of groins for reducing erosion is limited. While they do trap sand under normal conditions, groins also may accelerate erosion of nearby shorelines. And they provide little protection from erosion during a major storm. In addition, groins can impede navigation and threaten water quality unless they are properly designed, located and maintained.

      To receive a CAMA permit for your wooden and riprap groin projects, you must meet the general CAMA rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas as well as the following specific regulations {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(9)}:

        • Groins must not impede boat traffic.

        • Groins may not extend more than 25 feet waterward of the normal high water or normal water level unless a longer structure can be justified by site-specific conditions and with sound engineering and design principles (see Figure 4.12A).

        • Groins must be at least 15 feet from the adjoining property lines (see Figure 4.12B). The 15-foot setback requirement may be waived by a written agreement of the adjacent property owners or when adjoining owners apply for a CAMA permit together.

        • You may not construct more than two groins per 100 feet of shoreline unless you can provide evidence that more structures are needed for shoreline stabilization (see Figure 4.12C). Generally, groins should be set apart a distance at least four times their length in order to interrupt water currents and trap sand.

        • The height of a groin must not exceed one foot above the normal high water or normal water level (see Figure 4.13). The purpose of a groin is to trap sand, which happens at the water bottom — not the surface. In addition, if a groin is built too high above the water level, storm waves won't wash over it, and the groin could be damaged or could collapse.

        • "L" and "T" sections are not allowed at the end of groins, because they can impede navigation and accumulate pollutants and debris.

        • Riprap material used to build a groin must be free from harmful quantities of loose dirt and other pollutants, and should be large enough to withstand waves or currents.

        Figure 4.13

        Illustration of proper groin height


        Marinas provide many boaters with a place for fuel, repairs, docking and storage. But the construction of a marina can involve significant alteration of shorelines and wetlands, as well as destruction of underwater habitat.

        Under CRC rules, a marina is any publicly or privately owned dock, basin or wet boat storage facility built to accommodate more than 10 boats and providing permanent or temporary docking space, dry stack storage, haul-out facilities or repair services.

        To receive a CAMA permit, your marina must meet the general CAMA rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas as well as the specific rules below. [Boat ramps are exempt from these standards if they allow only access to the water (temporary docking) and offer none of the services above.] See {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(5)}:

        • Marinas should be built in non-wetland sites or in deep waters that don't require dredging. They must not disturb valuable shallow-water or wetland habitats, except for dredging necessary for access to high-ground sites. Marinas should be designed to protect the environment as much as possible. The following are four alternatives for siting marinas, ranked in order of Coastal Resources Commission preference:

          • An upland site that requires no alteration of wetlands or other estuarine habitats and has adequate water circulation to prevent the accumulation of sediment and pollutants in boat basins and channels;

          • An upland site that causes no significant damage to fisheries or wetlands and requires dredging for access only;

          • An open water site that doesn't require dredging or wetland alteration and is not a primary nursery area; and

          • An open water site that requires dredging in less productive habitat, but not deeper than any connecting channels
        • Marinas that require dredging may not be in primary nursery areas or in areas that require dredging a channel through nearby primary nursery areas to deeper waters. DCM will consider maintenance dredging in primary nursery areas for existing marinas on a case-by-case basis.

        • Marinas that require dredging must provide acceptable disposal areas to accommodate future maintenance dredging.

        • Marinas may not be enclosed within breakwaters that hinder the water circulation needed to maintain water quality. Breakwaters that obstruct or alter the circulation of estuarine waters can accumulate sediment and pollutants and accelerate erosion on nearby shorelines. This could threaten marine life and public health, and it requires more frequent maintenance dredging.

        • Marinas serving residential developments and built in public trust waters must be limited to 27 square feet of public trust area for every one linear foot of adjacent shoreline. The square-footage limit shall not apply to fairways between parallel piers or any portion of the pier used only for access from land to the docking spaces.

        • Marinas may not be located within areas where shellfish harvest for human consumption is a significant use, or in adjacent areas, if the proposed marina will cause closure of the harvest areas. Construction or enlargement of a marina must not lead to the closure of an open shellfishing area.

        • Marinas should minimize interference with public waters by using a mixture of dry storage areas, public launching facilities and docking spaces.

        • Marinas may not be built without written confirmation that the proposed location is not subject to a submerged lands lease or deed. (State law requires that marina owners receive an easement from the State Property Office.)

        • Marina basins must be designed to promote flushing: Basin and channel depths should gradually increase toward open water and must not be deeper than connecting waters. When possible, an opening shall be provided at opposite ends of the basin to promote flow-through circulation.

        • Marinas must be designed to minimize adverse effects on boat traffic, federally maintained channels and public rights to use and enjoy state waters.

        • Marinas must meet all applicable requirements for stormwater management.

        • Boat maintenance areas must be designed so that all scraping, sandblasting and painting is over dry land and so that pollutants such as grease, oil, paint and sediments do not flush into estuarine waters. Grease and sediment traps can protect water quality at the marina and throughout the estuarine system.

        • Marinas shall post a notice prohibiting the discharge of waste from boat toilets and explaining the availability of information on pumpout services. If dumped overboard, marine sewage can present a threat to marine life and public health.

        • Marinas must comply with all other applicable standards for docks and piers, bulkheading, dredging and spoil disposal.

        • Marina replacement may be allowed if all rules are met to the maximum extent practicable.

        • Upland development associated with marinas must comply with coastal shoreline rules, which require that structures with non-water-dependent uses be located at least 30 feet from the water, unless the structures are located in a designated urban waterfront.


        A freestanding mooring is a stationary device used for attaching a boat, ship, floating structure or other water craft. Freestanding moorings include mooring buoys, buoyed anchors and pilings that are not part of a pier, dock or boathouse.

        To qualify for a mooring permit, you must either own the waterfront property in front of the mooring location (general permit or major permit), or you must be planning to install the mooring buoy in a designated mooring area that meets the requirements of a local water use plan (requires major permit).

        Figure 4.14

        Example of proper mooring radiusIf you plan to install a mooring, you must meet the following standards {15A NCAC 7H.0208 (b) (10) or 7H.2200}:Moorings must not interfere with navigation or with public use of the waters.

        • Moorings may be located up to a maximum of 400 feet from the no

        • rmal high water line, or the normal water line, whichever is applicable.

        • You may have up to four moorings, if you do not have other docking space in front of your property. If you do have other docking space, the combined docking spaces and moorings must not total more than four.

        • Freestanding moorings along federally maintained channels must meet Corps of Engineers guidelines.

        • When you plan the location of your mooring, you must consider the boat as well. The space for a mooring must include a radius around the mooring that could be occupied by the boat at any time (see Figure 4.14).

        • Moorings and associated boats must be located at least 15 feet from adjacent riparian property lines, as extended into the water – unless the adjoining property owner waives this setback.

        • Moorings must not significantly interfere with shellfish franchises or leases. You must notify all owners of a shellfish franchise or lease over which your mooring would extend.

        • Moorings must be marked in accordance with US Coast Guard and NC Wildlife Resources Commission requirements, and they must bear the owner's name, state vessel registration numbers and/or US Customs documentation numbers. Mooring buoys must be a minimum of 12 inches in diameter.

        • If a mooring is not used for 12 months or more, it must be removed.

        Mooring Fields

        In addition to the standards for private freestanding moorings, the following standards apply to mooring fields {15A NCAC 7H. 0208 (b) (10)}:

        • All mooring fields must provide suitable access areas to moorings and land-based operations, including wastewater pumpout, trash disposal and parking.

        • Mooring fields may not be located within areas where shellfish harvesting is a significant use, or adjacent to shellfish areas if the mooring field could lead to a shellfish closure.

        • If the state has leased or deeded submerged lands where the mooring field is to be located, you must obtain the permission of the person/people controlling the submerged lands.

        • Open water moorings may not be enclosed within breakwaters that prevent water from circulating.

        • Moorings and associated land-based operations must meet all applicable stormwater management requirements.

        • Mooring fields must post a notice prohibiting the discharge of waste from boat toilets and explaining the availability of pumpouts and waste disposal.

        • Moorings associated with commercial shipping, public service, or temporary construction/salvage operations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

        Oceanfront Construction

        New construction or substantial improvements to existing structures must meet the following construction standards in addition to the general  use standards for Ocean Hazard AECs {15A NCAC 7H.0306. Substantial improvements occur when the cost to do the improvement exceeds 50 percent  of the market value of the existing structure  immediately prior to the time of damage or the time of request.(15A NCAC 07J .0210  

        • In order to avoid danger to life and property, all development shall be designed and placed so as to minimize damage due to fluctuations in ground elevation and wave action in a 100-year storm.  Any building constructed within the ocean hazard area shall comply with relevant sections of the North Carolina Building Code including the Coastal and Flood Plain Construction Standards and the local flood damage prevention ordinance as required by the National Flood Insurance Program.  If any provision of the building code or a flood damage prevention ordinance is inconsistent with any of the following AEC standards, the more restrictive provision shall control. Your local building inspector can explain the requirements of the State Building Code and local ordinances.

        • All structures must be on pilings at least 8 inches in diameter or, if the pilings are square, 8 inches per side.

        • All pilings shall have a tip penetration greater than eight feet below the lowest ground elevation under the structure.  For those structures so located on or seaward of the primary dune, the pilings shall extend to five feet below mean sea level. (See Figure 4.15).

        • Foundations must be adequately designed to be stable during applicable fluctuations in ground elevation and wave forces during a 100-year storm (see Figure 4.16). Cantilevered decks and walkways shall meet this standard or be designed to break away without structural damage to the main structure.

        Figure 4.15

        Illustration of proper house placement

        Figure 4.16

        Illustration of proper house elevation

        Oceanfront Erosion Response

        Erosion is a fact of life in North Carolina's oceanfront communities: Nothing can prevent it. To protect your development from erosion, you should place your new buildings or developments as far back from the beach as possible.

        But new buildings aren't the only ones at risk. Many existing buildings may become threatened by the forces of wind and water. Recognizing that people cannot prevent erosion – they can only respond to it – the Coastal Resources Commission allows two methods of erosion response: moving buildings out of the way, or replenishing the beach's supply of sand.

        The CRC does not generally allow permanent stabilization of the ocean shoreline, because structures such as bulkheads, seawalls, jetties and groins interrupt natural sand migration patterns and can increase erosion at nearby properties. However, in 2011, the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation to allow up to four terminal groins to be built in North Carolina inlets.

        Any oceanfront erosion protection measure must meet CAMA's general rules for development in ocean hazard AECs as well as the following specific standards {15A NCAC 7H Section .0308(a)}:

        • Permanent erosion-control structures, such as seawalls, groins and revetments, are generally prohibited.

        • Building relocation and beach nourishment are preferred responses to erosion.

        • Comprehensive shoreline management is preferred over small-scale projects. Erosion management measures are more successful when coordinated over a large stretch of shoreline rather than at scattered, individual sites.

        • Rules governing erosion response apply to all oceanfront property.

        • Erosion-control measures that interfere with public beach access are prohibited.

        • All erosion-response projects must demonstrate sound engineering practices.

        • Unless appropriate mitigation is incorporated into your project plan, erosion-response projects will not be permitted in areas that provide substantial habitat for important wildlife.

        • Your project must be timed to cause the least possible damage to biological processes. Certain times of year and day are important for breeding, spawning, nesting and feeding cycles of shorebirds, sea turtles and other species. Your project must accommodate these cycles in order to protect North Carolina's wildlife.

        • You must notify all adjacent property owners of your proposed project. No permit will be issued until the property owners have signed the notice form or until a reasonable effort has been made to contact them by certified mail.

        • All exposed remnants and debris from failed erosion-control structures must be removed before beginning any erosion-response project.

        Permanent erosion-control structures that normally are prohibited may be permitted in certain cases for public projects, for example: to protect a bridge that provides the only existing road access to a substantial barrier island population, is vital to public safety and is threatened by erosion, or is one of the four terminal groin structures allowed by the 2011 legislation.

        Sandbags for Temporary Erosion Control

        Sandbags are allowed (with the proper permit) to temporarily protect imminently threatened oceanfront structures. A structure is considered threatened when the erosion escarpment is less than 20 feet from a building's foundation (see Figure 4.17A).

        Most sandbag installation can be authorized with a general permit.

        Dune crossovers, pools, parking lots, decks, tennis courts and similar structures don't qualify as threatened structures. Roads are considered structures, and septic systems that currently are serving a building also qualify for sandbag protection.

        Figure 4.17

        Illustration of erosion scarp and proper sandbag placementSandbags are allowed only on a temporary basis. If left in place permanently, sandbags act as hard structures, and can cause the same types of damage to the beach as seawalls.

        To prevent that damage, the Coastal Resources Commission sets specific limits on sandbag use:

        • Two years for buildings 5,000 square feet or smaller;

        • Five years for buildings larger than 5,000 square feet.

        • Five years for properties located in a community that is actively pursuing a beach nourishment project.

        • Eight years for properties located in an Inlet Hazard Area adjacent to an inlet for which a community is actively pursuing an inlet relocation project.

        • Only one sandbag permit may be issued for the life of your property, even if the property changes ownership, unless the structure is located in an Inlet Hazard Area and in a community that is actively pursuing an inlet relocation project.

        • Existing sandbag structures located in Inlet Hazard Areas may be eligible for an additional eight-year permit extension provided the structure is still imminently threatened.

        Sandbags and other temporary oceanfront erosion controls must meet CAMA's general rules for the ocean hazard AEC, as well as the following standards {15A NCAC 7H Section .0308(a)}:

        Figure 4.18

        • Illustration showing that bags can't extend more than 20 feet beyond structureSandbags must be placed above the normal high water mark and parallel to the shore.

        • Sandbag structures can't extend more than 20 feet past the sides of the protected structure (see Figure 4.18).

        • Sandbag structures cannot be more than 6 feet tall, and their base width (measured from the oceanward side to the landward side) cannot be greater than 20 feet (see Figure 4.17B ).

        • The landward side of the sandbag structure must not be more than 20 feet seaward of the structure it protects.

        • Sandbags used to construct temporary erosion-control structures must be tan. Each bag must be 3 to 5 feet wide and 7 to 15 feet long when measured flat.

        • You may maintain your sandbag structure for the life of your permit provided you don't make the structure any larger.

        • If your sandbags are determined to be unnecessary because of the relocation or removal of the threatened structure, they must be removed within 30 days.

        • If sandbags are buried and covered with vegetation that has spread enough to be considered natural, the sandbags may remain in place.

Last Modified: November 6, 2012

N.C. Division of Coastal Management . 400 Commerce Ave . Morehead City, NC 28557
1-888-4RCOAST . Email Us