What is the Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program?

Virginia CZM Boundary Map

Virginia’s “Coastal Zone”

Although only 29 percent of Virginia's land area lies within the “Coastal Zone”, more than 60 percent of Virginia's citizens call it home.  Virginia's 2010 coastal population was about 5.1 million.

Virginia's coastal zone includes:

  • All of Virginia's Atlantic coast watershed.
  • Parts of the Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle - Pamlico Sound watersheds.
  • 29 counties, 17 cities and 42 incorporated towns in 'Tidewater Virginia', as defined in the Code of Virginia 28.2-100.
  • Total Shoreline Miles: 10,120
    Tidal Bay - 7,213 miles
    Ocean - 132 miles
    Inland Bays/Lagoons - 2,775 miles
  • Four tidal rivers reaching as far as 100 miles inland - the Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James Rivers.
  • All of the waters within and out to the three mile Territorial Sea boundary.

Download a copy of the Virginia Coastal Zone Map - (JPEG, 3.46 MB)  (Go to list of all counties, cities and towns in 'Tidewater Virginia'.) See a map of Virginia's Shoreline Miles - https://www.vims.edu/bayinfo/faqs/shoreline_miles.php.

Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program

Virginia CZM Program LogoThe Virginia CZM Program is known, in the national coastal zone management arena, as a “networked program”.  Basically, this means that to manage Virginia's coastal resources, the program relies on a network of state agencies and local governments to administer the enforceable laws and regulations that protect our wetlands, dunes, subaqueous lands, fisheries, and air and water quality – within the Virginia “Coastal Zone.”  As with pieces in a puzzle, these laws and regulations fit together to form the Virginia CZM Program.

The Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program was established under Executive Order.  This Executive Order “directs all state agencies to carry out their legally established duties consistent with this Program and in a manner that promotes coordination among all government agencies.”

The Virginia CZM Program is a network of state agencies and local governments (and other agencies designated as responsible for assisting with the program):

  • Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
  • Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
  • Marine Resources Commission (MRC)
  • Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF)
  • Department of Health
  • Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs
  • Department of Forestry
  • Department of Historic Resources
  • Department of Mines, Minerals & Energy
  • Department of Transportation
  • Virginia Economic Development Partnership
  • Virginia Institute of Marine Science

The above agencies administer the following enforceable laws, regulations and advisory policies that protect our coastal resources and geographic areas of particular concern:

  • Tidal and Nontidal Wetlands
  • Fisheries
  • Subaqueous Lands
  • Dunes and Beaches
  • Point Source Air Pollution
  • Point Source Water Pollution
  • Nonpoint Source Water Pollution
  • Shoreline Sanitation
  • Coastal Lands
  • spawning/nursery/feeding grounds
  • coastal primary sand dunes
  • barrier islands
  • significant wildlife habitat areas
  • significant public recreation areas
  • significant sand and gravel resource deposits
  • underwater historic resources
  • highly erodible/high hazard areas
  • waterfront development area

Detail on the laws, regulations, advisory policies and responsible agencies...

Federal Consistency

Having a federally approved coastal zone management program also authorizes Virginia to require that all federal actions are consistent with the state CZM Program's laws and enforceable policies. Please review the requirements on the Environmental Impact Review Program - Federal Consistency webpage. If you still have questions, contact Bettina Sullivan.

Download Virginia CZM Program description brochure (pdf)

Program Change Updates for the Virginia CZM Program

Since 1986, the Virginia CZM Program has completed a number of Routine Program Changes.  Periodically, the program needs to be updated to reflect changes made to coastal law and regulation. This process of updating the program, if it is a significant change is known as a 'Program Amendment.' If it is a less significant change, it is known as a 'Routine Program Change.' Because the laws and regulations incorporated into the Virginia CZM Program are used for Federal Consistency determinations, this process is a crucial part of maintaining a strong program.  A list and more information about these changes will soon be downloable from this site.  In the interim, please contact Shep Moon, Virginia CZM Program Planner, for this information.

Reporting Virginia CZM Program Network Agency Activities to NOAA

Every 6 months, the Virginia CZM Program networked agencies provide the Virginia CZM Program Office at DEQ a summary report of their activities as they relate to managing the state’s coastal resources.  These reports are submitted to NOAA.

Disclaimer: The following Section B.2-4 documents are not exclusively created by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Some of their content may not be in an accessible format pursuant to Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d)). Please call 800-592-5482 if you need assistance. 


'Tidewater' Virginia

Virginia's coastal counties

  • Accomack
  • Arlington
  • Caroline
  • Charles City
  • Chesterfield
  • Essex
  • Fairfax
  • Gloucester
  • Hanover
  • Henrico
  • Isle of Wight
  • James City
  • King George
  • King and Queen
  • King William
  • Lancaster
  • Mathews
  • Middlesex
  • New Kent
  • Northampton
  • Northumberland
  • Prince George
  • Prince William
  • Richmond
  • Spotsylvania
  • Stafford
  • Surry
  • Westmoreland
  • York

Virginia's coastal cities

  • Alexandria
  • Chesapeake
  • Colonial Heights
  • Fairfax
  • Falls Church 
  • Fredericksburg
  • Hampton
  • Hopewell
  • Newport News
  • Norfolk
  • Petersburg
  • Poquoson
  • Portsmouth
  • Richmond
  • Suffolk
  • Virginia Beach
  • Williamsburg 

Virginia's coastal incorporated towns

  • Accomac
  • Ashland
  • Belle Haven
  • Bloxom
  • Bowling Green
  • Cape Charles
  • Cheriton
  • Chincoteague
  • Claremont
  • Colonial Beach
  • Dendron
  • Dumfries
  • Eastville
  • Exmore
  • Hallword
  • Haymarket
  • Herndon
  • Irvington
  • Keller
  • Kilmarnock
  • Melfa
  • Montross
  • Nassawadox
  • Occoquan
  • Onancock
  • Onley
  • Painter
  • Parksley
  • Port Royal
  • Quantico
  • Saxis
  • Smithfield
  • Surry
  • Tangier
  • Tappahannock
  • Urbanna
  • Vienna
  • Wachepreague
  • Warsaw
  • West Point
  • White Stone
  • Windsor

Go to the Coastal Planning District Commission Page for more information.

NOAA Logo 

For comments or questions concerning this program's web pages, contact Virginia Witmer.

This website is provided by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program through a federal Coastal Zone Management Act grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce.

Virginia in the National CZM Program/NOAA Evaluations of Virginia CZM Program

The Virginia CZM Program was federally approved and is part of a national coastal zone management program, a voluntary partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Service Office for Coastal Management (OCM) and U.S. coastal states and territories authorized by the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.

The Virginia CZM Program as approved by NOAA in 1986 is outlined in the following document:

Virginia Coastal Resource Management Program – Final Environmental Impact Statement ('Program Document')  NOAA Office of Coastal Zone Management and (former) Council of Environment Commonwealth of Virginia - 1986. (PDF, 20 MB) 

The NOAA Office for Coastal Management conducts a routine evaluation of the Virginia CZM Program periodically.  An evaluation team meets with federal, state and local staff, academics and others to review how well the Virginia CZM Program is implementing its approved program, adhering to its federal financial awards and being consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Act.  A public meeting is held to solicit comments from the general public.  Written comments are also encouraged. 


Virginia CZM Program being evaluated under new NOAA process

Beginning in fall of 2014, Virginia CZM Program staff started collecting data for an evaluation of the program to be completed by summer 2015 under NOAA's new Section 312 evaluation process. A Public Meeting was held for the NOAA Section 312 Evaluation of the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program on May 12, 2015. Read an article about the 2015 evaluation in the Fall 2014 issue of Virginia Coastal Zone Management magazine. The program was last evaluated by NOAA in 2006. See NOAA's previous evaluation findings below.

NOAA Evaluation Findings:


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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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