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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Coastal Management - Major Permits

Coastal Management

Major Permits

You will need a major development permit if your project involves development in an Area of Environmental Concern and any of the following:

  • another state or federal permit, license or authorization, such as for dredging and filling, wetlands fill, stormwater management, sedimentation control, wastewater discharge or mining;

  • excavation or drilling for natural resources on land or under water;

  • construction of one or more buildings that cover more than 60,000 square feet on a single parcel of land;

  • alteration of more than 20 acres of land or water.

A major permit is usually required if there is any dredging or filling of water or marsh.

How to Apply

1. Contact the DCM office in the district where your project is located.

2. A field representative will visit your project site, discuss the proposed project with you and give you a copy of the permit application. Before you submit the application, ask the field representative to meet you on site and suggest any changes or alternatives to help you meet the CRC's guidelines. You should also ask how your local land use plan and local ordinances might affect your project.

3. The CAMA major permit application serves as an application for several other state and federal permits, to reduce confusion about the application process and the time needed to review permit applications. These permits are:

  • Dredge and Fill: Required by the N.C. Dredge and Fill Act for any project involving excavation or filling in estuarine waters, tidelands, marshlands or state-owned lakes.

  • Easement to Fill: Required by the N.C. Department of Administration for any filling project in navigable waters to raise lands normally submerged at high tide to above the mean high water mark or to place certain structures on state-owned bottoms.

  • Water Quality Certification: Required by the N.C. Division of Water Quality for any activity that may discharge fill into waters or wetlands and that requires a federal permit.

  • Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act: Required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for dredging, filling and other work in navigable waters.*

  • Section 404 of the Clean Water Act: Required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for discharge into waters or wetlands.*

*In 1981, the Corps of Engineers began joint processing of Section 10 and Section 404 permits with the State of North Carolina for projects requiring a CAMA Major Development Permit and/or a state Dredge and Fill permit. Under this arrangement, the state receives comments on each project from federal agencies, although the Corps retains the authority to conduct a separate federal review if necessary. Most projects that previously needed separate state and federal reviews now only need a CAMA permit and Corps approval letter before work may begin.

4. The permit application asks for basic information about the project and the property. This includes:

  • the applicant's name, address and telephone number;

  • the location, nature and purpose of the project;

  • the type of land to be excavated or filled;

  • the type of equipment to be used;

  • the intended use of the project.

5. A completed application and fee must be returned to the DCM field office before the application review can begin.Note: Major permit fees range from $250 to $475; see Appendix B for listing. DCM submits a report on the application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Wilmington District Office. This ensures that state and federal reviews will begin at the same time.

6. A copy of the deed or other document showing title to the land must be attached to your application. Deeds can be obtained from the county Register of Deeds office. If you aren't the owner of the property, you must submit written permission from the property owner along with a copy of the deed.

7. The application package must include a list of the names and addresses of the owners of adjacent waterfront properties. These can be obtained from the county tax office.

You must notify the adjacent waterfront owners by sending them a copy of the completed application by certified mail, return receipt requested. The postal receipt must be attached to your application form. DCM also publishes a notice of your application in the local newspaper. Coastal Resources Commission rules generally give any person who is affected by a proposed project 30 days after the date of notification to make comments. Objections don't necessarily mean a permit will be denied, but reasonable objections will be considered in DCM's application review.

8. If your project is located in an ocean hazard Area of Environmental Concern (AEC), you must fill out and sign an AEC Hazard Notice. This notice states that you recognize the natural hazards of building on the site, that the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) does not guarantee the safety of your project and that the CRC assumes no liability for future damage to the project.

The notice also states that no hardened structures may be used to protect your building or other project, and that the development must be relocated if it becomes threatened by erosion and the shoreline doesn't recover within two years – either naturally or through nourishment.

9. The permit application must be accompanied by a vicinity map and work plats (see Figure 5.1). These drawings, prepared by you or by a surveyor, engineer or architect, are part of the permit application and must be prepared as described below:

Figure 5.1

  • Use as few sheets as necessary to show the proposed work.

  • A complete set of maps and plans must be attached to each application.

  • Originals are preferred.

  • Drawings should be in black pencil or india ink on clean, white, 8 ½" x 11" or 11" x 17" paper, with a margin of at least 1" along the left edge for binding and at least a 2" margin along the other three sides.

  • The drawings must be neat and clear enough for photographic reproduction. If blue-line copies are used, you must submit 26 sets of prints with your application.

  • Each drawing must include a title block that identifies the project, the name of the applicant, the date the plat was prepared, who prepared the drawing and the project scale (see Figure 5.1).

  • All maps and plans must include a north arrow (see Figure 5.1). North should be at the top of the drawing. The vicinity map is a small-scale map showing the location of the work site. You may use a U.S. Geological Survey chart, a survey map or a county road map. An aerial photo is helpful but not required. The map should show the project's location (see Figure 5.1) and should identify the source and title of the map. The map must contain enough detail that someone unfamiliar with the area can find the project site.

  • The work plat (top view), or project plan, must indicate the approximate mean low water line (MLW), the mean high water line (MHW) or the normal water line (NWL) and the extent of any marshland or other wetlands that are in or near the proposed work site. All coves, creeks and other water bodies should be included in the shoreline sketch.

  • Arrows must indicate the directions of ebb and flood tides and the flow directions of streams (see Figure 5.1).The work plat must show property boundaries as they appear on the deed and the names of adjacent property owners.

  • The work plat should show existing and proposed man-made structures, such as docks, bulkheads and houses, and indicate what exists and what is proposed.

  • All work plans should be drawn to a scale of 1" = 200' or less.

  • The work plat must also clearly indicate and describe any areas to be excavated or filled, including the exact location of spoil disposal sites (see Figure 5.1).

  • When fill is to be placed behind a bulkhead or dike, the plan must show that the structure will be adequate to confine the fill (see Figure 5.1). The depth of excavation below the mean low water mark or normal water level and the cubic yards of material to be removed also must be indicated.

10. A cross-section diagram is required for each proposed excavation, fill or structure, including bulkheads, dikes and spoil retention works. The cross-section diagram should show the depth of the excavation (or the elevation of the fill) relative to the existing ground level, the mean high water level and the mean low water level (see Figure 5.1). The mean low water line should be the reference for other water depths and land elevations shown on the plat.

11. Additional forms may be required with the application for certain projects: excavation and fill (form DCM-MP-2); upland development (form DCM-MP-3); structures within public trust areas (form DCM-MP-4); and bridges and culverts (form DCM-MP-5. All forms must be signed and dated.

Note: if the N.C. Division of Water Quality determines that a stormwater plan is required under its rules, you must submit an additional form to that Division. See Section 9 for contact information.

12. You must pay an application fee ($250-$475; see Appendix B) when you submit your application. Contact your nearest DCM office for the amount. Payment should be in the form of a check made payable to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or DENR.

13. Activities requiring a major development permit are often part of a larger development project that takes place outside of an Area of Environmental Concern. The Division of Coastal Management may require information on the entire project to determine the effect on coastal resources. If DCM needs more information about the project during its review of the application, you will be notified by mail.

14. Once DCM has received all of your application materials:

  • A field representative will visit your project site to make sure that the site maps and work plats are accurate.The representative will consider any conditions you may have to meet in order to comply with development standards.

  • In conjunction with the site visit, the field representative will check to make sure that your proposed project complies with all AEC standards. The field representative can explain the standards and how they affect your particular project.

  • During the review, DCM will determine if your project complies with the local CAMA land use plan. Your project will be denied a CAMA permit if it is inconsistent with the policies and land categories or classifications of this plan.

  • Your project also may be reviewed for compliance with the local zoning ordinance, subdivision ordinance and other development regulations. The permit will be denied if the proposed project violates any of these local ordinances.

15. After the field representative receives your application and determines that it is complete, DCM will publish a legal notice in a local newspaper to inform the community that your project is being considered for a major development permit. The public may examine the application file for compliance with the CRC's development standards, the local land use plan and local development ordinances.You will be notified when the application is deemed complete and will be given a projected time when the permit decision should be made. You also will be asked to post a notice on-site that you have applied for a permit.

16. The field representative prepares a field investigation report that summarizes your project and any anticipated effects on the environment. That report, along with a copy of your completed application, is sent to the permit staff at DCM's Morehead City headquarters.

17. Because of the broad scope of the CAMA Major Development Permit, the complete application package is circulated to nine state and four federal agencies. Both the DCM field report and agency comments are public documents and are available for public review.

State Review Agencies

  • Department of Administration, State Property Office

  • Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History

  • Department of Commerce, Division of Community Assistance

  • Department of Transportation, Division of Highways

  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources

  • Division of Land Resources

  • Division of Marine Fisheries

  • DMF Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section

  • Division of Water Resources

  • Wildlife Resources Commission

Federal Review Agencies

  • Army Corps of Engineers

  • Environmental Protection Agency

  • National Marine Fisheries Service

  • Fish and Wildlife Service

18. The Coastal Area Management Act allows the Division of Coastal Management 75 days from the date the field representative accepts the application as complete to take action on a major development permit. This period can be extended for an additional 75 days if more time is needed to review the proposed project.

DCM can place a project on hold if more information is needed to complete the application. When DCM receives that information, the review clock starts where it was stopped: For example, if DCM places a project on hold 15 days into the review, the clock will restart with 60 days remaining. A permit applicant also can place a project on hold for any reason.

Here's how DCM uses the review period (see Appendix C):

  • After visiting the project site and examining the application file, the field representative submits a field report to state agencies, the Corps of Engineers and a permit coordinator at the DCM's Raleigh office.

  • The coordinator uses state and federal review agency comments, along with any comments from the public, to make a recommendation to DCM's director. The director will then decide to issue or deny the permit.

Permit Decisions

DCM will issue a CAMA major permit if the project complies with the CRC's rules, the local land use plan and local development regulations. Most permits contain conditions to ensure that resources are protected. It is your responsibility to meet all conditions listed on the permit.

If a permit is issued for your project, DCM will mail you an original permit, a copy and a postcard. Sign both the original permit and the copy immediately, and return the copy to DCM in the envelope provided. Before you begin work, complete the postcard and return it to the DCM district office in your area.

DCM must deny a permit if the project violates the CRC's standards for development in an Area of Environmental Concern, the local CAMA land use plan or a local development regulation. If the application for a major development permit is also an application for a state Dredge and Fill permit, both permits can be denied if it is found that:

  • The proposed dredging and filling will obstruct or damage public use of waterways.

  • The project will diminish the value and enjoyment of adjacent property owners.

  • The project will damage or threaten public health, safety and general welfare.

  • The project will threaten the quality or quantity of public and private water supplies.

  • The project will have a significant adverse impact on wildlife or fisheries.

If your major development permit is denied, the Division of Coastal Management will send you a denial letter by certified or registered mail. You have the right to appeal a permit denial or to request a variance from the Coastal Resources Commission. See Section 8 for more information.


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