Virginia CZM Program Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategies

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Every five years the Virginia CZM Program conducts an assessment of the Commonwealth's coastal resources and management efforts. High priority topics are then chosen and 5 year grant strategies are designed to result in new enforceable policies to better manage those high priority resources or issues.

What is a 'coastal enhancement area' and a 'coastal needs assessment'?

Population growth along Virginia's coast brings new challenges to managing the Commonwealth's coastal resources.

When the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) was reauthorized in 1990, a new program was established to provide voluntary, match-free funding to coastal states to address needs in nine coastal areas, also known as 'coastal enhancement areas':

  1. wetlands
  2. coastal hazards
  3. public access
  4. marine debris
  5. cumulative and secondary impacts
  6. special area management planning (SAMPs)
  7. ocean resources
  8. energy and government facility siting
  9. aquaculture

Section 309 of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) establishes a voluntary coastal zone enhancement grants program to encourage states and territories with federally approved coastal management programs to develop 'program changes' -- changes to the state's enforceable policies or authorities -- that help the state make improvement(s) in one or more of the nine coastal enhancement areas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) distributes CZMA funds and requires that coastal states assess changes, progress and new issues in these areas every five years. The 'Coastal Needs Assessment' is developed under Section 309 of the Coastal Zone Management Act. Visit  the NOAA Office for Coastal Management Coastal Enhancement Program web page for more information.

How does Virginia CZM Program prioritize coastal enhancement areas?

The Virginia CZM Program's Coastal Policy Team (CPT) meets to review and prioritize (high, medium or low priority) the nine assessment areas for the next five years of work.  The CPT used the criteria listed below to determine the priority for each area. Team members individually ranked each area on scoring sheets, considering each area on its own merits. Individual scores were combined and the overall ranking of the areas posted for reflection and discussion by Team members. The Team discussed whether arguments could or should be made to increase or lower the priority of any area, and then by consensus decided on the priority assigned to each area.

  • Feasibility: Could progress be made within the time and financial constraints? Is successful development of enforceable policies likely? Is adoption of enforceable policies likely?
  • Importance: Is there a significant threat in this enhancement area? How valuable (economically or ecologically) is the coastal resource?
  • Appropriateness for the Coastal Program: Is this an issue that other agencies are not addressing? Is there a need for coordination of efforts within Virginia?

Once the high priority areas have been determined, strategies are developed which must result in new enforceable coastal policies in each area.

What is a 'coastal strategy' and how are they developed?

Once the Virginia CZM Program has conducted its coastal needs assessment, and prioritizes the areas, the program develops 5-year strategies to address improvements in the areas of high priority.  These strategies are developed with input from the program's partners and constituencies through focus groups and strategy work group meetings. 

The completed Virginia Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategies document is made available for Public Comment on the Virginia CZM website.  Virginia CZM then sends the report to NOAA's Office for Coastal Management for approval.  

Once NOAA's approval is received, specific grant projects are developed to accomplish the strategies over the five-year period.  The proposals for these projects are then approved by NOAA's Office for Coastal Management.   

Pending NOAA's approval of the proposals, the Virginia CZM Program receives approximately $540,000 each year over five years to implement it's strategies.

Virginia's 2015 Coastal Needs Assessment and FY2016 - 2020 Strategies

Virginia's 2016-2020 Coastal Needs Assessment will use new Section 309 Guidance issued by NOAA (January 2013). 

The Virginia CZM Program began its 2016 - 2020 Coastal Zone Enhancement Process in fall of 2014 and is currently developing strategies in the following areas

  • Ocean Management (including marine debris)
  • Coastal Resiliency (emphasizing shoreline management and community resilience)
  • Cumulative and Secondary Impacts of Growth and Development (CSI) (including working waterfronts)

Virginia's 2010 Coastal Needs Assessment and FY2011 - 2015 Strategies 

With each criterion valued at up to 5 points, the assessment issues were ranked on a total scale of 1 to 15. Final ranking for all issues resulted between 9 and 12 points and therefore are all considered high or moderately high priorities and are eligible for strategy development. Based on needs identified in the 309 assessment process and Coastal Policy Team discussion, the Virginia CZM Program plans to focus its attention and efforts on the following issues over the next five years:

  • Cumulative and Secondary Impacts of Growth and Development (CSI)

  • Special Area Management Plans (SAMPs)

  • Ocean Resources (Marine Debris)

Go to the web page to

Virginia's 2005 Coastal Needs Assessment and FY2006 - 2010 Strategies

In 2005, Virginia developed a five-year Assessment and Strategy that identified six high priority areas including: 

  • Wetlands
  • Public Access
  • Aquaculture
  • Coastal Hazards
  • Cumulative and Secondary Impacts.

To address these priorities, the Coastal Program developed these six key strategies: 

  • Intergovernmental Decision-Making (CSI)
  • Shoreline Management (CSI, wetlands, public access)
  • Prioritizing Conservation Corridors (CSI, wetlands)
  • Dragon Run SAMP Implementation (SAMP)
  • Seaside of Virginia’s Eastern Shore (SAMP)
  • Management Initiatives for Shellfish Aquaculture (Aquaculture)
  • Administrative Actions: Data Collection, Indicator Development, Program Changes and the 2010 Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategy (Public Access and other areas).

Go to web page to

Virginia's 2000 Coastal Needs Assessment and FY2001 - 2005 Strategies

In 2000, Virginia developed a five-year Assessment and Strategy that identified five high priority areas with seven proposed strategies:

  • Wetlands: Wetlands Regulatory Programs Strategy
  • Coastal Hazards: Dune Management Strategy
  • Cumulative and Secondary Impacts: Shoreline Management Strategy and Clean Marina Program Strategy
  • SAMP: Southern Watershed Area Strategy and Dragon Run Area Strategy
  • Aquaculture: Aquaculture Management Strategy.

Go to web page to

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.

FY 2016 - 2020 Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategies

The Virginia CZM Program has begun the 2016 - 2020 Coastal Zone Enhancement Process.

In fall 2014, the program conducted an assessment of the Commonwealth's coastal resources and management efforts, including distribution of a Virginia Coastal Needs Assessment and Prioritization Survey.  

The results of this survey were shared with partners
who attended the 2014 Virginia Coastal Partners Workshop. (View workshop presentations)  

Workshop participants 
helped determine which areas should be considered the highest priorities for the Virginia CZM Program. 

In February 2015, the Virginia Coastal Policy Team approved staff recommendations to develop 5 year strategies, resulting in new enforceable policies, in three areas:

  1. Ocean Management (including marine debris)
  2. Coastal Hazards (emphasizing shoreline management and community resilience)
  3. Cumulative and Secondary Impacts of Growth and Development (CSI) (including working waterfronts)

Virginia CZM Program staff developed draft strategies with input from our partners. These draft strategies were submitted to NOAA in mid-June 2015, and NOAA provided comments in August 15, 2015.  the draft strategies were available for public review October 20 - November 20, 2015.  Final strategies will be available on this website in January 2016.

Visit the Virginia CZM Program 2016-2020 Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategies Webpage for more details.

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

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