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Monday, October 11, 2010

Coastal Zone Management: Background and Reauthorization Issues

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) was first enacted in 1972, at a time when coordinated land use planning was generally supported in Congress. Planning was seen as central to protecting natural resources while fostering wise development in the coastal zone. Since 1972, pressures for both preservation and development have grown more intense as people continue to migrate to coastal areas to take advantage of economic opportunities, to retire, and to pursue recreational interests; as economic activities continue to concentrate in coastal locations; and as natural resources are threatened by the magnitude and location of these changes. The CZMA recognizes that many of these pressures are not compatible, and also that states (and in some states, local government) have the lead responsibility for planning and managing their coastal zones. The CZMA authorizes grants to states to develop and implement coastal management programs to address these pressures. The concepts behind the program combined with the modest grants have attracted 34 of the 35 eligible states and territories to participate. Although authorization for appropriations expired after FY1999, Congress continues to fund this program.

Congress has reauthorized or amended this act eight times since 1972, responding to changing issues combined with a continuing interest in assisting states to manage their coastal resources. Participants also have adjusted their programs to reflect their changing priorities. Since 1999, when the most recent reauthorization expired, Congress repeatedly has considered, but not enacted, reauthorization language. Reauthorization has proven difficult, in part, because the numerous stakeholders (broadly consisting of three groups: participants; use and development interests; and environmental interests) have divergent views about possible changes to the current approach and about which topics should be emphasized or eliminated from the purview of coastal management. Since the law expired in 1999, the context in which reauthorization legislation could be considered continues to change. These changes include events (such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005), new information (such as knowledge about places in coastal waters where biological activity ceases during some seasons, called “dead zones”), trends (such as rising energy prices), climate change, and other federal programs related to coastal issues.

Two bills, S. 1579 and H.R. 5451, were introduced to reauthorize the Coastal Zone Management Act during the 110
th Congress. H.R. 5451 was reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans, but no further action was taken. In the 111th Congress, several bills related to climate change adaptation, working waterfronts, and renewable energy planning have been introduced that would amend the Coastal Zone Management Act. However, a reauthorization bill has not been introduced, and it appears unlikely that reauthorization will be considered by the 111th Congress.

Date of Report: September 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: RL34339
Price: $29.95

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