Hazards Planning Center

Coastal Zone Management

APA and the Coastal States Organization (CSO), which represents the interests of governors from the 35 coastal states, commonwealths, and territories, are both current members of NOAA's Digital Coast Partnership.

Redwood City, CaliforniaNOAA's Coastal Services Center, creator of Digital Coast, sponsored a fellow to work with APA and CSO in producing a Coastal Zone Management PAS Report. The report examines the nature and extent of state technical assistance available to community planners and compares coastal management legislation across the U.S. The report also identifies best practices in the use of geospatial technology for managing coastal hazards, climate change threats, environmental quality, and other issues relevant to coastal zone management.

In 1972 the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) created the National Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program. The CZM Program allocates funds to the 35 coastal states and territories through specific programming areas ranging from enhancing public access to mitigating coastal hazards. The diverse coastal regions throughout the U.S. deeply vary in their priorities and use, from conservation to tourism to industry. While this report will outline the differences between various state strategies, it will also point to comparisons among coastal regions prioritizing similar uses.

Coastal zone management is continually becoming more complicated. Climate change effects — particularly sea level rise — threaten coastlines, and is a politically volatile topic. The PAS Report will explore the role of coastal zone management in adapting to and mitigating climate change, building off the CSO survey and report on sea level rise. Technology is important now, more than ever, to help manage these increasingly complex coastal regions.

In the findings from the 2010 APA Digital Coast Needs Assessment Survey of members working in coastal communities, the majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that there is strong support for geospatial technology within their organization (64 percent) and that their organizations are very aware of the capabilities of such technology (69 percent). However, only 28 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that their organization provides/pays for all the needed training, and only 25 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that their organization funds sufficient investment in geospatial technology. This disconnect between acknowledging geospatial technology as beneficial and actually supporting an investment in it will be explored in the PAS Report.

Geospatial technology is becoming more accessible and affordable. NOAA's Coastal Services Center and the Digital Coast Partnership offer a growing array of freely available online Digital Coast tools, resources, and training specific to coastal zone management. These tools will be directly incorporated into the report, in addition to best practices and case studies detailing the use of technology in coastal zone management.


The knowledge and skills necessary to effectively manage coastal zones are diverse and interdisciplinary. Many organizations — specifically geared towards coastal management, or not — do work and research helpful to coastal planners. Various programs and reports not only guide planners, but also build cooperation among many different agencies.

Data and Tools

Various networks provide opportunities for coastal planners to share data and information. Some resources are specific to certain geographies, while others span the entire country. Visualization tools, such as those available through the NOAA Digital Coast, are particularly helpful in analysis and communicating with the public.


Dune grass planting at Holgate, New JerseyThis curated list of guides outlines varied coastal planning techniques, with an emphasis on climate change strategies. Many outline a process for creating a general coastal zone management plan, and some delve into a specific element of coastal planning. 

Adapting to Climate Change: A Planning Guide for State Coastal Managers

NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management

Adapting to Climate Change: A Planning Guide for State Coastal Managers — A Great Lakes Supplement

NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management

Adapting to Coastal Climate Change: A Guidebook for Development Planners

United States Agency for International Development

Climate-Related Funding Opportunities

NOAA Coastal Services Center Regional Staff

Coastal No Adverse Impact Handbook

Association of State Floodplain Managers and NOAA Coastal Services Center

Guidelines for Integrated Coastal Zone Management

The World Bank Environmentally Sustainable Development Studies and Monographs Series

Offshore Renewable Energy Regulatory Primer

National Sea Grant Law Center, University of Mississippi

Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments

University of Washington and ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability

Protecting the Public Interest through the National Coastal Zone Management Program: How Coastal States and Territories Use No-Build Areas along Ocean and Great Lake Shorefronts

NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management

Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Environmental Protection Agency; International City/County Management Association; Rhode Island Sea Grant

Synthesis of Adaptation Options for Coastal Areas

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Tools for Coastal Climate Adaptation Planning: A Guide for Selecting Tools to Assist with Ecosystem-Based Climate Planning

Ecosystem-Based Management Tools Network

Urban Planning Tools for Climate Change Mitigation

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Voluntary Step-by-Step Guide for Considering Potential Climate Change Effects on Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Projects

Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program

Waterfront Revitalization for Small Cities

Oregon State University and University of Washington Sea Grant Program

Images: Top, Aerial view of the port of Redwood City in San Mateo County, California. Photo from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library. Bottom, Residents at Holgate, New Jersey, have planted dune grass to help prevent coastal storms like Sandy from damaging their homes. Photo by Rosanna Arias/FEMA.