North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
NC Division of Coastal Management
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CAMA Permits :: Will My Project Require a Permit?

The Coastal Area Management Act requires permits for development in Areas of Environmental Concern (AEC). You must obtain a 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 established by the Coastal Resources Commission;

  • it doesn't qualify for an exemption.

Photo of a pier"Development" includes activities such as dredging or filling coastal wetlands or waters, and construction of marinas, piers, docks, bulkheads, oceanfront structures and roads.

Areas of Environmental Concern are the foundation of the CRC's permitting program for coastal development. An 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 classifies areas as AECs to protect them from uncontrolled development, which may cause irreversible damage to property, public health or the environment. AECs cover almost all coastal waters and about 3 percent of the land in the 20 coastal counties.

The CRC has established four categories of AECs:

  • The Estuarine and Ocean System;

  • The Ocean Hazard System;

  • Public Water Supplies;

  • Natural and Cultural Resource Areas.

If you're planning any sort of development -- from a sandbag structure to a bridge to a condominium -- in the coastal area, and your project is in an Area of Environmental Concern, you're probably going to need a CAMA permit. You'll also need to follow development rules specific to that AEC.

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

  • in or on navigable waters within the 20 CAMA counties;

  • on a marsh or wetland;

  • within 75 feet of the mean 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;

  • near a public water supply.

If your project is in one of these areas, contact the Division of Coastal Management office nearest you.

Permit exemptions

Section 103(5)(b) of the Coastal Area Management Act exempts the following activities from permitting requirements:

  • 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 marshland (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 marshland is involved.

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

Even if your project does NOT require a CAMA permit, it may be subject to consistency review if a Federal Permit or License is required. Please visit our consistency page for more information.


Last Modified: February 27, 2008

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