Coastal Zone Management


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

York County, Maine, coastlineAssociation of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM)

This NOAA Digital Coast partner organization represents professionals involved in floodplain management, flood hazard mitigation, the National Flood Insurance Program, and flood preparedness, warning and recovery.

These professionals work in local, state and federal government, the research community, the insurance industry, and the fields of engineering, hydrologic forecasting, emergency response, water resources, and others.

ASFPM's Coastal No Adverse Impact (NAI) Handbook outlines a specific approach to land regulation. The NAI approach helps communities avoid lawsuits surrounding takings — governmental acquisitions of private property — by tightly binding regulations to the specific goal of preventing harm through performance-based standards. A community is more likely to be successfully sued for allowing improper development that causes harm than for prohibiting it.

Mitigation Misery: Land Use and Protection of Property Rights before the Next Big Flood offers an overview of the history of flood control in the U.S. and the corresponding law theories addressing public liability for flood damages, including the NAI approach.

Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE)

An international online community for collaboration and ideas exchange, including case studies, literature, a discussion forum, and other resources for professionals working in climate adaptation.

Coastal States Organization (CSO)

Representing the 35 coastal states, commonwealths, and territories, CSO provides information, updates and alerts that keep states attuned to developments in Washington, D.C. CSO's updates enable states to respond to legislative, regulatory and policy developments as they occur to ensure the sound management of coastal, Great Lakes, and ocean resources. Work groups focus on coastal water quality, coastal hazards, coastal zone management, ocean policy, and island affairs.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

According to FEMA, eight of the 10 most expensive historical natural disasters have been coastal storms. The agency provides assistance for coastal resilience, flooding, and storm recovery, such as Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning guidance. The Coastal Flood Hazard Technical Resources page provides technical modeling and mapping applications, among other publications and information. Beneficial programs to coastal communities include — among many more — the Community Rating System offers incentives to communities for floodplain management activities that exceed minimum requirements for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

National Association of Counties (NACo)

This NOAA Digital Coast partner represents the nation's counties with a unified voice before the federal government. Additionally, NACo assists counties in finding and sharing innovative solutions through education and research, and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money, such as its collaborative report Building Resilient Coastal Communities: Counties and the Digital Coast.

National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA)

This NOAA Digital Coast partner works to promote and advance the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). Twenty-eight reserves throughout the country are protected for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education and coastal stewardship. With Congress, NOAA, and public and private partners, NERRA works to increase support for education, monitoring, research, and stewardship of our nation’s estuaries and coasts.

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC)

This NOAA Digital Coast partner works to improve government efficacy and efficiency through the use of geospatial information technology. Members of NSGIC include senior state geographic information system (GIS) managers and coordinators, in addition to representatives from academia, federal agencies, local government, the private sector, and other professional organizations. NSGIC's GIS Inventory tracks state and local governments' data availability and status of geographic information system implementation.

NOAA Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth

A website that describes coastal and waterfront-specific smart growth strategies for development, tools and techniques for implementation, and case studies.  Website builds off of the Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities guide and includes several links to resources for implementing these approaches.

NOAA Coastal Services Center

The center provides the technology, information, and management strategies used by local, state, and national organizations to address complex coastal issues. The center's core areas of expertise include geospatial technologies, training — such as a nine-module online course helping municipalities understand the Public Trust Doctrine — and social science. Products and services developed by the center include data, tools, training, and technical assistance. The Digital Coast, which was developed by the NOAA Coastal Services Center, is the delivery mechanism for many of the center's web-based products.

NOAA Coastal Planning Advisor

An interactive step-by-step through the coastal planning decision-making process: background study, plan development, alternatives, implementation, and evaluation. Customizable questions guide planners in specific areas of coastal planning, from energy facility siting to public access.

NOAA State of the Coast

Case studies and management success stories that highlight often complex connections across the four themes: coastal communities, coastal economy, coastal ecosystems, and the climate, including interactive visualizations of facts and detailed statistics.

NOAA-EPA Coastal Community Development Partnership

In 2011, EPA and NOAA signed a memorandum of agreement designed to enhance their efforts to help state and local governments create sustainable and resilient coastal and waterfront communities, protect healthy coastal ecosystems, restore degraded coastal ecosystems, and adapt to climate change. This partnership addresses community needs for training and technical assistance, scientific and technical information, and support for place-based projects. Further technical assistance opportunities are available through the EPA's Smart Growth Program.

National Sea Grant College Program

Network of 32 university-based programs that work with coastal communities, conducting scientific research, education, training, and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of aquatic resources. Sea Grant activities concentrate on healthy coastal ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, environmental literacy and workforce development, and resilient communities and economies.

National Sea Grant Library

This digital library provides global access to over 22,000 full-text digital documents through a searchable publications database, with hardcopy loans available.

National Sea Grant Law Center

The Sea Grant Law and Policy Journal is an Open Access online journal that provides a forum for the timely analysis, discussion, and exploration of legal topics of relevance to the Sea Grant network of extension agents, researchers, coastal managers and users, and local decision-makers.

Ocean and Coastal Policy Center

Research center affiliated with the University of California which produces reports on biodiversity conservation policymaking, ecological restoration, marine ecosystem management and planning (with a focus on the National Marine Sanctuary Program), offshore oil and gas activities, place-based activism, and watershed planning and management.

Pew Research Center Environmental Initiatives' Ocean Science Division

Studies critical emerging issues, informs policy, and advances solutions to conservation problems through scientific research and technical analyses, synthesized in varying topics.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

This NOAA Digital Coast partner is one of the world's leading conservation organizations, working to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. As a Digital Coast partner, TNC is involved in such tools as the Coastal Resilience Decision-Support Framework, the Climate Wizard, and the MS-AL Habitat Mapper.

Urban Land Institute (ULI)

This NOAA Digital Coast partner is a nonprofit education and research institute on the use of land in order to enhance the total environment. Many ULI research centers intersect with coastal zone management, particularly the Climate, Land Use, and Energy (CLUE) Initiative. The report on the global policy and practice forum Risk and Resilience in Coastal Regions and the guide Ten Principles for Coastal Development are particularly helpful to coastal planners.

Image: Winter coastline in York County, Maine. Photo by Flickr user InAweofGod'sCreation (CC BY 2.0).