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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Coastal Management - Section 4: Rules for Specific Types of Projects

Coastal Management


Section 4: Rules for Specific Types of Projects

(These projects all require CAMA permits. Types of projects are listed alphabetically, not by AEC category)

Beach Bulldozing

(Also see Oceanfront Erosion Response)

Beach bulldozing is a common method of erosion management that moves sand, usually to repair storm damage to an existing dune or to create a protective berm if the dune system has been completely washed away. Beach bulldozing may be permitted if you follow the general rules for development within an ocean hazard area of environmental concern, and you follow these specific rules (see Figure 4.1):

Figure 4.1

  • Illustration of beach bulldozingIf you are bulldozing under a general permit, you must confine sand movement to landward of the normal high water line. Moving sand that is seaward of the low water line requires a CAMA major permit and a state Dredge and Fill permit.

  • In order to minimize adverse impacts to nesting sea turtles, no work shall occur within the period of May 1 through Nov. 15 without prior approval from the Division of Coastal Management, in coordination with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

  • The project should maintain a slope similar to normal conditions. The slope, or grade, of the project must not be so steep that it endangers the public or interferes with public use of the beach.

  • Bulldozer blades may not be lowered more than one foot as measured from the existing surface elevation.

  • Beach bulldozing must not extend past the lateral boundary of your property, unless you have permission from the neighboring landowner.

  • Beach bulldozing must not significantly increase erosion on neighboring properties or adversely affect important natural or cultural resources.

Beach Nourishment (Oceanfront)

(Also see Oceanfront Erosion Response)

Ocean beach nourishment must meet the general rules for development in the Ocean Hazard AEC as well as the following standards:

  • Sand used for beach nourishment must be similar in quality and grain size to sand in the area being nourished.

  • Sand may not be taken from sensitive natural areas or areas where it will cause more than a minimal environmental effect.

  • In order to minimize adverse impacts to nesting sea turtles, no work shall occur within the period of May 1 through Nov. 15 without prior approval from the Division of Coastal Management, in coordination with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

  • The project should maintain a slope similar to normal conditions. The slope, or grade, of the project must not be so steep that it endangers the public or interferes with public use of the beach.

  • Nourishment projects may be subject to the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act (NCEPA), which requires a NCEPA review.

Beach Walkways

(Also see Oceanfront Construction)

Beach walkways make it easier to get to the beach without damaging dunes, which play a vital role in maintaining the structure and safety of North Carolina's barrier islands and beaches.

To ensure that the dune system is not damaged when a walkway is built, you must follow the following rules in addition to the general use standards for the ocean hazard AEC {15A NCAC 7H .0308}:

Figure 4.2

  • Illustration showing proper placement of beach walkwayWalkways must be for pedestrian use only.

  • Walkways must be no wider than 6 feet.

  • Walkways wider than 6 feet or not for pedestrian use may be permitted if they meet a public need that cannot be met in other ways. (Note: This standard does not apply to public fishing piers if they meet all other applicable standards.)

  • Elevated walkways allow dunes to adjust naturally to wind and wave forces, maintaining the stability of the protective dune system. Walkways must be on posts or pilings embedded to a depth of 5 feet or less, so that when possible, only the posts – not the walkway itself – touch the frontal dune. Walkways may touch the dune only to the extent necessary.

  • Walkways won't be allowed if they weaken the dune's protection against flooding and erosion (see Figure 4.2).

  • Any vegetation disturbed in the construction and use of a walkway or vehicle accessway must be replanted as quickly as possible.

  • Walkways or vehicle accessways may not be considered threatened structures and are not eligible for sandbag protection.

Boat Ramps

Boat ramps provide access to coastal waters. Ramps for private use may be constructed under a CAMA general permit if they meet the general rules for coastal shorelines, estuarine and public trust waters, and the following specific conditions {15A NCAC 7H .1305}:

  • Boat ramps must not be wider than 15 feet and must not extend farther than 20 feet below the normal high water level contour in tidal areas or the normal water level contour in nontidal areas.

  • Excavation and ground-disturbing activities above and below the normal high water level or normal water level will be limited to that absolutely necessary to establish adequate ramp slope and provide a ramp no greater in size than specified by the general permit.

  • Placement of fill materials below the normal high water level, or normal water level contour, will be limited to the ramp structure itself. Boat ramps may be constructed of concrete, wood, steel, clean riprap, marl or any other acceptable materials approved by DCM personnel.

  • Coastal wetland vegetation must not be excavated or filled at any time during construction and subsequent use of the ramp.

Construction of larger or commercial boat ramps may require a major permit.

Bulkheads and Estuarine Shoreline Stabilization

Shoreline erosion is common along North Carolina's broad sounds and tidal rivers, and many waterfront property owners look for methods to slow or prevent it. There are three approved methods for stabilizing estuarine shorelines.

1. Planting vegetation along the estuarine shoreline is the cheapest and most environmentally sound stabilization method. Plants slow wave energy and trap sediments. They also increase the marsh habitat and provide food for lower organisms such as algae and seaweeds, finfish and shellfish, mammals and shorebirds.

Because of the variety of shoreline types and plant species in North Carolina estuaries, your project should be evaluated for the appropriateness of planting vegetation and for specifics on how to plant properly. If the shoreline does not require preparation – i.e. grading – a permit is not required for planting vegetation. For large projects or for projects on areas that need preparation, contact Coastal Management, and check with the North Carolina Sea Grant Program for information about plantings. (See Section 9 for contact information.)

2. Stone riprap or revetments also dissipate some wave action, but they often increase erosion along the front and sides of the revetment. Because the stones or rocks of a revetment will settle and readjust with storms or waves, riprap material must be heavy enough or securely tied down to remain in place through storms and normal tidal and wave movement. In fresh water, you can further stabilize riprap sites by planting vegetation in the spaces between the stone using soil bioengineering techniques.

Riprap material must be clean and free of pollutants. Although riprap causes less habitat destruction and loss than permanent seawalls, riprap replaces soft bottom habitat with hard bottom habitat, and it changes plant and animal diversity and abundance.

3. Bulkheads or vertical retaining walls are not the most desirable method of shoreline stabilization, because they can encroach into estuarine waters or public trust areas and can prevent the natural landward migration of coastal wetlands. Although bulkheads block or reflect wave energy, they also may block normal sand migration, increasing erosion along the front and sides of the wall. In addition, bulkheads can lead to the destruction of shallow-water habitat.

Bulkheads must follow the general CAMA rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas, and the following specific guidelines {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(7)}:

  • Where possible, sloping riprap or vegetation should be used rather than vertical bulkheads (see Figure 4.3). Riprap and vegetation can be less expensive and more effective at slowing erosion than bulkheads, depending on the characteristics of the shoreline. Sloping shoreline structures help dissipate wave energy as a wave strikes the shoreline, reducing the wave's ability to carry away soil. Vertical bulkheads do not dissipate wave energy as well; they can direct that energy to adjacent properties and to the base of the bulkhead, causing additional erosion and damage.

  • To keep the shoreline stable, shoreline stabilization measures should be aligned with, or landward of, the normal high water or normal water level (see Figure 4.4). The normal water level is the ordinary extent of high tide, based on the location of the apparent high tide line and site conditions, such as the presence and location of vegetation that is distributed by tides (wrack line). Shoreline stabilization measures located waterward of this line encroach on the public's right of access to those lands and waters.

Figure 4.4

  • Illustration showing proper bulkhead alignmentBulkheads or other shoreline stabilization structures may be permitted below the normal water level if all of the conditions below are met:

  • The property has an identifiable erosion problem or has unusual features, such as a steep bank;

  • Coastal Management has documented the need for shoreline stabilization below the normal water line;

  • The shoreline stabilization measure extends beyond the normal water line no more than necessary to: resolve the hardship resulting from unusual features; align with adjacent shoreline stabilization measures; or allow backfill of the area eroded in the year before the date of the permit application;

  • The shoreline stabilization measure will not significantly impair public trust rights or damage adjacent waterfront properties; and

  • The property is not on the oceanfront.

  • If you are installing a shoreline stabilization measure, you must build the structure landward of marsh areas (see Figure 4.5). In those areas where a shoreline stabilization measure is proposed immediately waterward of the marsh, it may be allowed if it is placed no more than 6 inches above the elevation of the adjacent marsh substrate, and involves no backfilling or altering of the wetland. Marshes are vital to the health and productivity of fish and shellfish, and they depend on regular flooding for nutrients and for carrying away sediments and pollutants. Bulkheads may block this essential exchange and stimulate the gradual filling of the state's coastal wetlands.

  • If you are installing a shoreline stabilization measure with backfill, the fill material must be from an approved upland source – not the state's wetlands, estuarine beaches, or sound and river bottoms. All backfill material must be confined behind the structure.

Figure 4.5

Illustration showing bulkhead placed landward of marsh

Excavation of Channels, Canals and Boat Basins

Navigation channels, canals and boat basins are common along the coast's sounds, rivers and creeks. Navigation projects enhance our state's coastal waters for boating or fishing. But if they are poorly designed, navigation projects can disturb shellfish beds and fish nursery areas, damage wetlands or accelerate shoreline erosion.

New navigation channels are subject to the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act and must undergo a NCEPA review.

You must meet the following specific development regulations for navigation channels {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(1)}, in addition to the general rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas:

  • Navigation channels, canals and boat basins must avoid primary nursery areas, highly productive shellfish beds, beds of submerged aquatic vegetation and marshes.

  • Navigation channels and canals can be allowed through narrow fringes of regularly and irregularly flooded coastal wetlands, provided they do not significantly damage fishery resources, water quality or adjacent wetlands and if no reasonable alternative exists.

  • A canal or channel must be the smallest width possible to meet your needs and provide adequate water circulation.

  • Canals must not cause water quality problems. This standard ensures that any constructed canal will flow freely, so water won't stagnate and concentrate pollutants.

  • Canals should be designed to prevent shoreline erosion on adjoining properties.

  • Septic tanks are not allowed on the shores of canals serving more than one residence, unless they meet standards set by the Division of Water Quality and the Division of Environmental Health. Such septic systems may not have point-source discharges, and the development must have stormwater routing and retention systems, such as grassed swales and settling basins. This reduces the discharge of sewage and other pollutants into canals, where water moves slowly and has a decreased capacity to dissipate harmful materials.

  • No canal or boat basin may be deeper than its connecting channels. Canals or boat basins deeper than adjoining channels allow sediment and pollution to build up in the basin.

  • Boat basins should be designed with the widest possible opening and the shortest possible entrance to promote flushing and exchange of waters. The depth of a boat basin should decrease from the waterward end to the landward end (see Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.6

Illustration of proper basin openingsThere are two common methods of excavating and maintaining navigation channels, canals and boat basins: mechanical dredging and hydraulic dredging.

Mechanical Dredging is used to construct and maintain navigation channels and boat basins, allowing boats to use coastal waters safely. But improperly placed dredged material (spoil) can smother coastal wetlands, shellfish beds and fish spawning and nursery areas, and can release pollutants into estuarine waters.

To qualify for a CAMA permit, your dredging project must meet the general CAMA regulations for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas.

  • All dredged material from the construction or maintenance of a canal, channel or basin must be confined inland of regularly or irregularly flooded coastal wetlands and must be stabilized to prevent sediment from entering adjacent marshes or waterways.

  • Dredging in primary nursery areas and beds of submerged aquatic vegetation is prohibited, unless maintenance excavation is essential to maintain a traditional and established use in these areas. In order to conduct maintenance excavation in these areas:

  • You must meet certain criteria, and you must present clear evidence that you can meet those criteria when you apply for a permit.

  • You must prove that the project is water-dependent, the channel has been continuously used for a specific purpose, and the disposal of dredged material will not harm coastal resources.

Hydraulic Dredging

Because hydraulic dredging increases the potential for environmental impacts, special rules apply {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(2)}:

  • Dredged material (spoil) must be confined on high ground by retaining structures or deposited on ocean beaches if the spoil is suitable. Dredged materials confined on high ground must be placed inland of any marshland and should be stabilized to keep sediments from entering adjacent waters or wetlands.

  • The end of the dredge pipeline should be set far enough into the disposal area to keep the containment dike from eroding and far enough from the spillway to allow suspended sediments to settle evenly throughout the disposal area. (see Figure 4.7A).

  • Effluent from a diked spoil disposal area must be carried by a pipe, trough or similar device to a point in the water past visible vegetation or below the normal low water line. When possible, you must return effluent to the area being dredged (see Figure 4.7B).

  • A water control structure must be installed at the intake end of the effluent pipe to allow for the settling of suspended sediments, which restricts the flow of sediment into adjacent marshes and waterways (see Figure 4.8).

  • Effluent from diked disposal areas holding spoil from closed shellfish waters must not be returned to open shellfish waters. This practice keeps the contaminants found in closed shellfish waters from reaching non-polluted shellfish beds, spawning and nursery areas, and submerged vegetation beds.

Figure 4.7

Illustration of dredge-spoil disposal area

Figure 4.8

Illustration of water control structure for spoil disposal area

Docks and Piers

Docks and piers serve important functions along the coast, allowing access to water for recreational and commercial boating, swimming, diving, fishing and transportation. If poorly designed, however, docks and piers can obstruct navigation and the water circulation that sustains an estuary's natural systems.

The type of permit you will need for a dock or pier varies with the size of the structure. See the tables in Appendix A to help you determine the type of permit you may need.

All docks and piers must meet the general CAMA rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas and the following specific regulations {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(6)}:

Figure 4.9

  • Illustration depicting limits on pier lengthDocks and piers cannot be wider than 6 feet. Wider docks and piers may be permitted only if the greater width is necessary for safe use, to improve public access, or to support a water-dependent use that cannot otherwise occur.

  • Piers in existence on or before July 1, 2001, may be braced with additional pilings and crossbeams to prevent or minimize storm damage, as long as the pilings do not extend more than 2 feet beyond either side of the pier.

  • Piers extending more than 100 feet past the marsh vegetation or the shoreline must not extend beyond the length of existing piers used for similar purposes along the same shoreline.

  • Piers must not extend into the channel portion of the water body.

  • Piers must not extend more than one-fourth the width of a natural water body or man-made canal or basin (see Figure 4.9), except in cases where there is a federally established pier-head line or if the pier is located between longer piers within 200 feet of your property. However, if you qualify for one of these exceptions, your pier cannot be longer than adjacent piers and cannot in any case extend more than one-third the width of the water body.

Figure 4.10

  • Illustration of riparian corridorsPier alignments along federally maintained channels must meet U.S. Army Corps of Engineers guidelines, available from the Corps' district office in Wilmington.

  • There are limits on the combined area of all T-heads, finger piers, platforms and decks, and those limits vary based on the type of permit you obtain. See the tables in Appendix A for more information.

  • Docks, piers and T-heads must be elevated at least 3 feet over the coastal wetland substrate, as measured from the bottom of the decking.

  • Boathouses may not be larger than 400 square feet, unless you can demonstrate a need for a larger boathouse. (A larger boathouse requires a major permit.)

  • Boathouse walls may cover only the top half of the boathouse (from the roofline). The bottom half must remain open.

  • Boathouses are not allowed on lots with less than 75 linear feet of shoreline.

  • The total area of a boat lift cannot be larger than 400 square feet.

  • Piers, docks, decks, platforms and boathouses must be single-story. They may have roofs, but must not be designed for second-story use.

  • Piers must not interfere with access to any riparian property and shall have a setback of at least 15 feet between any part of the pier and the adjacent property owners' areas of riparian access. The dividing line for areas of riparian access shall be established by drawing a line along the channel or deep water in front of the properties, then drawing a line perpendicular to the line of the channel so that it intersects with the shore at the point the upland property line meets the water's edge (see Figure 4.10). The 15-foot setback requirement may be waived by a written agreement of the adjacent riparian property owners or when owners apply for a CAMA permit together.

  • In areas where the shoreline is irregular, such as the end of a canal, DCM field representatives are responsible for determining the projection of the riparian property lines into the water, and will assist property owners in determining pier alignment.

  • Docks and piers must not significantly interfere with water flows, which could lead to the accumulation of pollutants along the shoreline or accelerate shoreline erosion. Docks or piers with open-spaced pilings allow water to circulate freely.

  • Docks and piers must not interfere with shellfish leases or franchises. You must provide notice of the permit application or exemption request for a dock or pier to the owner of any part of a shellfish franchise or lease that the proposed dock or pier would cover. The Division of Marine Fisheries has information on the location of these shellfish beds and leaseholders.

Dune Creation and Stabilization (Ocean Hazard Area only)

Sand dunes provide a natural buffer against the erosive forces of wind, water and waves. Sometimes it's necessary to stabilize or strengthen existing sand dunes or build new ones to protect oceanfront buildings and roads. Dune establishment and stabilization projects must be thoughtfully planned and carried out to avoid damaging the beach and dune system.

Dune creation and stabilization projects must meet the general rules for ocean hazard AECs as well as the following standards {15A NCAC 7H Section .0308(b)}:

Figure 4.11

  • Illustration showing proper dune alignmentMan-made dunes must be aligned with existing adjacent dune ridges and be of similar shape (see Figure 4.11).

  • Existing primary and frontal dunes may not be broadened or extended oceanward, except during beach nourishment projects or emergency situations authorized by the Division of Coastal Management.

  • Dune building must not damage existing vegetation. You must immediately replant or otherwise stabilize the dunes if vegetation is harmed.

  • Sand used to create dunes must be similar in quality and grain size to existing sand, so it will improve potential stability of the existing sand and build stable dunes and be compatible with the existing environment.

  • Dunes may not be created in inlet hazard areas.

  • Sand in any dune other than the frontal or primary dune may be redistributed within the AEC if it is not placed farther oceanward than the crest of the primary dune or landward of the toe of the frontal dune.


A groin is an erosion-control structure built perpendicular to the shoreline. Often used on a small scale along the shores of North Carolina's sounds and tidal rivers to protect individual properties, wooden and riprap groins offer protection from gradual erosion by slowing wave action and trapping sand. (Groins are not authorized along the oceanfront.)

Figure 4.12

Illustration of proper groin placementHowever, the effectiveness of groins for reducing erosion is limited. While they do trap sand under normal conditions, groins also may accelerate erosion of nearby shorelines. And they provide little protection from erosion during a major storm. In addition, groins can impede navigation and threaten water quality unless they are properly designed, located and maintained.

To receive a CAMA permit for your wooden and riprap groin projects, you must meet the general CAMA rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas as well as the following specific regulations {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(9)}:

  • Groins must not impede boat traffic.

  • Groins may not extend more than 25 feet waterward of the normal high water or normal water level unless a longer structure can be justified by site-specific conditions and with sound engineering and design principles (see Figure 4.12A).

  • Groins must be at least 15 feet from the adjoining property lines (see Figure 4.12B). The 15-foot setback requirement may be waived by a written agreement of the adjacent property owners or when adjoining owners apply for a CAMA permit together.

  • You may not construct more than two groins per 100 feet of shoreline unless you can provide evidence that more structures are needed for shoreline stabilization (see Figure 4.12C). Generally, groins should be set apart a distance at least four times their length in order to interrupt water currents and trap sand.

  • The height of a groin must not exceed one foot above the normal high water or normal water level (see Figure 4.13). The purpose of a groin is to trap sand, which happens at the water bottom — not the surface. In addition, if a groin is built too high above the water level, storm waves won't wash over it, and the groin could be damaged or could collapse.

  • "L" and "T" sections are not allowed at the end of groins, because they can impede navigation and accumulate pollutants and debris.

  • Riprap material used to build a groin must be free from harmful quantities of loose dirt and other pollutants, and should be large enough to withstand waves or currents.

Figure 4.13

Illustration of proper groin height


Marinas provide many boaters with a place for fuel, repairs, docking and storage. But the construction of a marina can involve significant alteration of shorelines and wetlands, as well as destruction of underwater habitat.

Under CRC rules, a marina is any publicly or privately owned dock, basin or wet boat storage facility built to accommodate more than 10 boats and providing permanent or temporary docking space, dry stack storage, haul-out facilities or repair services.

To receive a CAMA permit, your marina must meet the general CAMA rules for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters and public trust areas as well as the specific rules below. [Boat ramps are exempt from these standards if they allow only access to the water (temporary docking) and offer none of the services above.] See {15A NCAC 7H .0208(b)(5)}:

  • Marinas should be built in non-wetland sites or in deep waters that don't require dredging. They must not disturb valuable shallow-water or wetland habitats, except for dredging necessary for access to high-ground sites. Marinas should be designed to protect the environment as much as possible. The following are four alternatives for siting marinas, ranked in order of Coastal Resources Commission preference:

  1. An upland site that requires no alteration of wetlands or other estuarine habitats and has adequate water circulation to prevent the accumulation of sediment and pollutants in boat basins and channels;

  2. An upland site that causes no significant damage to fisheries or wetlands and requires dredging for access only;

  3. An open water site that doesn't require dredging or wetland alteration and is not a primary nursery area; and

  4. An open water site that requires dredging in less productive habitat, but not deeper than any connecting channels.

  • Marinas that require dredging may not be in primary nursery areas or in areas that require dredging a channel through nearby primary nursery areas to deeper waters. DCM will consider maintenance dredging in primary nursery areas for existing marinas on a case-by-case basis.

  • Marinas that require dredging must provide acceptable disposal areas to accommodate future maintenance dredging.

  • Marinas may not be enclosed within breakwaters that hinder the water circulation needed to maintain water quality. Breakwaters that obstruct or alter the circulation of estuarine waters can accumulate sediment and pollutants and accelerate erosion on nearby shorelines. This could threaten marine life and public health, and it requires more frequent maintenance dredging.

  • Marinas serving residential developments and built in public trust waters must be limited to 27 square feet of public trust area for every one linear foot of adjacent shoreline. The square-footage limit shall not apply to fairways between parallel piers or any portion of the pier used only for access from land to the docking spaces.

  • Marinas may not be located within areas where shellfish harvest for human consumption is a significant use, or in adjacent areas, if the proposed marina will cause closure of the harvest areas. Construction or enlargement of a marina must not lead to the closure of an open shellfishing area.

  • Marinas should minimize interference with public waters by using a mixture of dry storage areas, public launching facilities and docking spaces.

  • Marinas may not be built without written confirmation that the proposed location is not subject to a submerged lands lease or deed. (State law requires that marina owners receive an easement from the State Property Office.)

  • Marina basins must be designed to promote flushing: Basin and channel depths should gradually increase toward open water and must not be deeper than connecting waters. When possible, an opening shall be provided at opposite ends of the basin to promote flow-through circulation.

  • Marinas must be designed to minimize adverse effects on boat traffic, federally maintained channels and public rights to use and enjoy state waters.

  • Marinas must meet all applicable requirements for stormwater management.

  • Boat maintenance areas must be designed so that all scraping, sandblasting and painting is over dry land and so that pollutants such as grease, oil, paint and sediments do not flush into estuarine waters. Grease and sediment traps can protect water quality at the marina and throughout the estuarine system.

  • Marinas shall post a notice prohibiting the discharge of waste from boat toilets and explaining the availability of information on pumpout services. If dumped overboard, marine sewage can present a threat to marine life and public health.

  • Marinas must comply with all other applicable standards for docks and piers, bulkheading, dredging and spoil disposal.

  • Marina replacement may be allowed if all rules are met to the maximum extent practicable.

  • New marinas over public trust bottoms are subject to the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act and must undergo a NCEPA review.

  • Upland development associated with marinas must comply with coastal shoreline rules, which require that structures with non-water-dependent uses be located at least 30 feet from the water, unless the structures are located in a designated urban waterfront.


A freestanding mooring is a stationary device used for attaching a boat, ship, floating structure or other water craft. Freestanding moorings include mooring buoys, buoyed anchors and pilings that are not part of a pier, dock or boathouse.

To qualify for a mooring permit, you must either own the waterfront property in front of the mooring location (general permit or major permit), or you must be planning to install the mooring buoy in a designated mooring area that meets the requirements of a local water use plan (requires major permit).

Figure 4.14

Example of proper mooring radiusIf you plan to install a mooring, you must meet the following standards {15A NCAC 7H.0208 (b) (10) or 7H.2200}:

  • Moorings must not interfere with navigation or with public use of the waters.

  • Moorings may be located up to a maximum of 400 feet from the normal high water line, or the normal water line, whichever is applicable.

  • You may have up to four moorings, if you do not have other docking space in front of your property. If you do have other docking space, the combined docking spaces and moorings must not total more than four.

  • Freestanding moorings along federally maintained channels must meet Corps of Engineers guidelines.

  • When you plan the location of your mooring, you must consider the boat as well. The space for a mooring must include a radius around the mooring that could be occupied by the boat at any time (see Figure 4.14).

  • Moorings and associated boats must be located at least 15 feet from adjacent riparian property lines, as extended into the water – unless the adjoining property owner waives this setback.

  • Moorings must not significantly interfere with shellfish franchises or leases. You must notify all owners of a shellfish franchise or lease over which your mooring would extend.

  • Moorings must be marked in accordance with US Coast Guard and NC Wildlife Resources Commission requirements, and they must bear the owner's name, state vessel registration numbers and/or US Customs documentation numbers. Mooring buoys must be a minimum of 12 inches in diameter.

  • If a mooring is not used for 12 months or more, it must be removed.

Mooring Fields

In addition to the standards for private freestanding moorings, the following standards apply to mooring fields {15A NCAC 7H. 0208 (b) (10)}:

  • All mooring fields must provide suitable access areas to moorings and land-based operations, including wastewater pumpout, trash disposal and parking.

  • Mooring fields may not be located within areas where shellfish harvesting is a significant use, or adjacent to shellfish areas if the mooring field could lead to a shellfish closure.

  • If the state has leased or deeded submerged lands where the mooring field is to be located, you must obtain the permission of the person/people controlling the submerged lands.

  • Open water moorings may not be enclosed within breakwaters that prevent water from circulating.

  • Moorings and associated land-based operations must meet all applicable stormwater management requirements.

  • Mooring fields must post a notice prohibiting the discharge of waste from boat toilets and explaining the availability of pumpouts and waste disposal.

  • Moorings associated with commercial shipping, public service, or temporary construction/salvage operations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Oceanfront Construction

New construction or substantial improvements to existing structures (an increase of 50 percent or more in the value of existing square footage) must meet the following standards in addition to the general rules for ocean hazard AECs {15A NCAC 7H.0308(d)}:

  • All development must be designed and located to avoid unreasonable dangers to humans and property and to minimize damage caused by changes in ground elevation and wave action in a 100-year storm.

  • Structures built in the ocean hazard area must comply with the N.C. Building Code, including the Coastal and Flood Plain Construction Standards and local flood damage prevention ordinances required by the National Flood Insurance Program. If any provision of the building code or flood ordinance is not consistent with CAMA standards, the more restrictive provisions apply. Your local building inspector can explain the requirements of the State Building Code and local ordinances.

  • All structures must be on pilings at least 8 inches in diameter or, if the pilings are square, 8 inches per side.

  • All pilings must be driven more than 8 feet below the lowest ground elevation under the structure. Pilings on the primary dune or nearer the ocean must extend at least 5 feet below normal sea level (see Figure 4.15).

  • Foundations must be designed to withstand changes in ground elevation and wave forces during a 100-year storm (see Figure 4.16). Cantilevered decks and walkways must meet this standard or be designed to break away.

Figure 4.15

Illustration of proper house placement

Figure 4.16

Illustration of proper house elevation

Oceanfront Erosion Response

Erosion is a fact of life in North Carolina's oceanfront communities: Nothing can prevent it. To protect your development from erosion, you should place your new buildings or developments as far back from the beach as possible.

But new buildings aren't the only ones at risk. Many existing buildings may become threatened by the forces of wind and water. Recognizing that people cannot prevent erosion – they can only respond to it – the Coastal Resources Commission allows two methods of erosion response: moving buildings out of the way, or replenishing the beach's supply of sand.

The CRC does not allow permanent stabilization of the ocean shoreline, because structures such as bulkheads, seawalls, jetties and groins interrupt natural sand migration patterns and can increase erosion at nearby properties.

Any oceanfront erosion protection measure must meet CAMA's general rules for development in ocean hazard AECs as well as the following specific standards {15A NCAC 7H Section .0308(a)}:

  • Permanent erosion-control structures, such as seawalls, groins and revetments, are prohibited.

  • Building relocation and beach nourishment are preferred responses to erosion.

  • Comprehensive shoreline management is preferred over small-scale projects. Erosion management measures are more successful when coordinated over a large stretch of shoreline rather than at scattered, individual sites.

  • Rules governing erosion response apply to all oceanfront property.

  • Erosion-control measures that interfere with public beach access are prohibited.

  • All erosion-response projects must demonstrate sound engineering practices.

  • Unless appropriate mitigation is incorporated into your project plan, erosion-response projects will not be permitted in areas that provide substantial habitat for important wildlife.

  • Your project must be timed to cause the least possible damage to biological processes. Certain times of year and day are important for breeding, spawning, nesting and feeding cycles of shorebirds, sea turtles and other species. Your project must accommodate these cycles in order to protect North Carolina's wildlife.

  • You must notify all adjacent property owners of your proposed project. No permit will be issued until the property owners have signed the notice form or until a reasonable effort has been made to contact them by certified mail.

  • All exposed remnants and debris from failed erosion-control structures must be removed before beginning any erosion-response project.

Permanent erosion-control structures that normally are prohibited may be permitted in certain cases for public projects, for example: to protect a bridge that provides the only existing road access to a substantial barrier island population, is vital to public safety and is threatened by erosion.

Sandbags for Temporary Erosion Control

Sandbags are allowed (with the proper permit) to temporarily protect imminently threatened oceanfront structures. A structure is considered threatened when the erosion escarpment is less than 20 feet from a building's foundation (see Figure 4.17A).

Most sandbag installation can be authorized with a general permit.

Dune crossovers, pools, parking lots, decks, tennis courts and similar structures don't qualify as threatened structures. Roads are considered structures, and septic systems that currently are serving a building also qualify for sandbag protection.

Figure 4.17

Illustration of erosion scarp and proper sandbag placementSandbags are allowed only on a temporary basis. If left in place permanently, sandbags act as hard structures, and can cause the same types of damage to the beach as seawalls.

To prevent that damage, the Coastal Resources Commission sets specific limits on sandbag use:

  • Two years for buildings 5,000 square feet or smaller;

  • Five years for buildings larger than 5,000 square feet; and

  • Five years or May 1, 2008, whichever is later, for buildings in communities that are deemed to be actively pursuing beach nourishment projects as of Oct. 1, 2001. Some other restrictions apply. Contact your local DCM office for information.

Only one sandbag permit may be issued in the life of your property, even if that property changes ownership.

Sandbags and other temporary oceanfront erosion controls must meet CAMA's general rules for the ocean hazard AEC, as well as the following standards {15A NCAC 7H Section .0308(a)}:

Figure 4.18

  • Illustration showing that bags can't extend more than 20 feet beyond structureSandbags must be placed above the normal high water mark and parallel to the shore.

  • Sandbag structures can't extend more than 20 feet past the sides of the protected structure (see Figure 4.18).

  • Sandbag structures cannot be more than 6 feet tall, and their base width (measured from the oceanward side to the landward side) cannot be greater than 20 feet (see Figure 4.17B ).

  • The landward side of the sandbag structure must not be more than 20 feet seaward of the structure it protects.

  • Sandbags used to construct temporary erosion-control structures must be tan. Each bag must be 3 to 5 feet wide and 7 to 15 feet long when measured flat.

  • You may maintain your sandbag structure for the life of your permit provided you don't make the structure any larger.

  • If your sandbags are determined to be unnecessary because of the relocation or removal of the threatened structure, they must be removed within 30 days.

  • If sandbags are buried and covered with vegetation that has spread enough to be considered natural, the sandbags may remain in place.



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