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Virginia CZM Program: 2015 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Marine Resources Commission

Project Title:

Permit Review & Compliance

Project Description as Proposed:

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) is charged with managing the Commonwealth’s submerged lands, tidal wetlands, and coastal primary sand dunes.  Responsibilities in implementing core permit functions are:

-Issuing permits for encroachments in, on or over State-owned submerged lands ( recently approximately 2,000 applications have been processed annually and  permits are issued for encroachments over State-own submerged lands), and

-Regulating the use of development of tidal wetlands and coastal primary sand dunes.  The goal of this effort is to eliminate unnecessary impacts to submerged lands, tidal wetlands, dunes and beaches and to maintain a permit review process based on public interest review procedures consistent with the public trust doctrine that fairly balances private use of state owned submerged lands and the need to preserve habitat for sustainable fisheries.

Tidal wetlands and coastal primary sand dune programs may be administered by local wetlands boards if the locality has adopted the model ordinances (35 have chosen to do so); however, the VMRC retains oversight and reviews all local board decisions.  These programs protect approximately 213,000 acres of vegetated tidal wetlands and provide for the regulatory management of 10,000 miles of tidal shoreline including all primary sand dunes and beaches throughout tidewater Virginia. Program goals include project modification to reduce project impacts and to require compensation for all permitted vegetated tidal wetland lossses.

The Commission’s permit review program is conducted by 7.5 equilivent Environmental Engineer positions. Each Environmental Engineer is assigned a specific geographic territory. They conduct application reviews, correspond with applicants and other concerned citizens, conduct site inspections, coordinate application reviews with other agencies, prepare project briefings, present contested cases to the full Commission at public hearings and draft permit documents. In addition they assist local wetlands boards with their wetland management responsibilities and attend all wetland board meetings in order to conduct the required review of wetland board actions. 

The Environmental Engineers will also document losses and conversions of submerged land, wetlands and dunes/beaches associated with all proposed shoreline stabalization projects. Proposed and permitted losses, as well as habitat conversions, will be recorded within the existing VMRC permit tracking datebase. This was initiated for projects beginning in 2013. This is intended to track impacts associated with traditional shoreline projects as well as proposals utilizing living shoreline techniques.

As a result of a previous survey, a comprehensive permit compliance and inspection program was developed and will continue to be implemented through this project. VMRC staff will inspect new construction projects permitted by the Commission, along with a representative sample of wetlands and dunes projects permitted by the local boards.  The goal of the program is to continue to maintain and improve permit compliance rates that have increased from approximately 50 percent when this program began to current rates of approximately 90 percent of projects that are in complete compliance. This also includes a goal of reducing the number of projects found to be in moderate compliance and reducing the number of projects for which compliance can not be determined.

In addition to support for ongoing permit review responsibilities, the workload resulting from the compliance inspections and recording efforts will be offset by one environmental engineer position. A program support technician will assist with compliance inspections and compile data generated by the engineers and ensure its entry into our permit tracking data base.  One quarter of an office service specialist time will support the clerical duties associated with permit review and compliance monitoring.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Tony Watkinson; 757.247.2250;

Project Status:

10/1/15 - 9/30/16; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

VMRC Permit Compliance and Inspection Program (PDF)
VMRC Permit Program Activity Report (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

The purpose of this grant project was to continue the implementation of a standardized permit compliance program for those permits issued by the Commission in the Coastal Zone. Commission staff also assessed permit compliance for wetland projects authorized in 2014. During the grant year (October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016) 359 compliance inspections were conducted by VMRC Habitat Management Division Staff. This involved 229 inspections of projects permitted by VMRC and 130 inspections of projects permitted by local wetlands boards.

While the overall data for the grant year shows that 93% of the projects permitted by VMRC were found to be in compliance, only 2 of the projects were found to be out of compliance. The remainder were either in moderate compliance (1%), or were not constructed. Although compliance could not be determined for 5% of the projects, inspections in these cases did not indicate there were any permit violations.

To date, the compliance-monitoring program has allowed evaluations of the effectiveness of our permit and monitoring procedures. As such, the monitoring program can only improve our resource management responsibilities. Therefore, permit compliance initiatives must continue to be a long-term effort if we are to ensure proper construction techniques and the protections of our valuable natural resources. This effort, combined with the improvement of our permit tracking database and use of GIS capabilities, is necessary if we are to realize the goal of making cumulative impact assessments a part of our wetlands and submerged lands permitting program.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to


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

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