Under these powers, state and local governments can act to protect coastal areas by regulating coastal development and land use. Some examples of these regulations are described below.


One of the most recognizable ways that state and local governments protect their communities is through floodplain regulations. Local governments have an incentive to regulate the use of its coastline to ensure it is adequately prepared for flooding- along with protecting lives and property, regulations may decrease the amount of public funds that need to be used for flood relief.

A local government may structure its regulations to comply with the federal floodplain regulatory programs.

  • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a federal program where states and communities manage floodplains according to certain federal requirements. In exchange, property owners in participating communities are able to purchase flood insurance.
  • To participate in the NFIP, a community must adopt and submit floodplain management regulations that at least meet the minimum requirements of the NFIP, but a community can adopt floodplain regulations that exceed these requirements.
  • Through the Community Rating System (CRS), communities that adopt floodplain regulations that exceed the minimum requirements of the NFIP are eligible for flood insurance rate discounts.
  • States that participate in the NFIP are eligible to participate in the Community Assistance Program (CAP), a financial assistance program aimed at assisting states in identifying, preventing and resolving participating communities’ floodplain management issues before a flood event.
  • For more information, see FEMA’s Floodplain Management page.


Wetlands provide many valuable services to the communities where they are located, so a local government may choose to regulate wetlands for the benefit of the community’s health, safety and welfare. Not only do wetlands reduce storm surge and control flooding, they also trap pollutants and sediment, preventing them from getting into nearby waterways. Wetlands are also highly productive ecosystems, serving as habitat and nursery grounds for many species. For more general information on wetlands, see the EPA’s wetlands page.

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA)

The CZMA is a federal statute that helps states establish coastal zone management programs that regulate the development of the nation’s coastal resources. The CZMA relies on cooperation between the federal government and coastal states and aims to balance economic development, coastal resource use and environmental concerns.

  • Under the statute, coastal states (including those states on the Great Lakes) prepare coastal management plans, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reviews for compliance with the CZMA’s requirements.
  • Once NOAA approves the coastal management plan, the state is eligible for federal assistance to develop and implement the plan.
  • Although each plan must meet certain requirements under the CZMA, each state is able to tailor its coastal management plan to the needs of the state.
  • The program is voluntary and over 30 states have approved coastal programs.
  • For more information, see the CZMA website

Also See

Regulatory Approaches