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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 are designed to 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.

Section 309 Assessment and Five Year (FY 2021-2025) Strategy Timeline
OCM issues final Section 309 guidance On or before June 30, 2019

Coastal management programs (CMPs) begin developing their assessment and strategy:

  • CMPs engage key stakeholders
  • OCM and CMPs work together to identify high priority enhancement areas and develop strategies
October 1, 2019
Stakeholder Engagement Opportunities (TBD) November - January, 2020
Phase I Assessment and Ranking Completed Mid-January, 2020 CPT meeting
Stakeholder Engagement Opportunities (TBD) February - April, 2020
Draft assessment and strategy due to NOAA May 1, 2020
OCM provides comments to CMPs on draft assessment and strategy July 1, 2020
Final assessment and strategy due September 1, 2020
OCM approves final assessment and strategy November 1, 2020
OCM issues federal funding opportunity for FY 2021 Project of Special Merit (PSM) Competition (tentative) Funds available only for Coastal Hazards projects. Late summer or fall 2020
Proposals for FY 2021 PSM Competition due (tentative) Late fall 2020 (not before November 1, 2020)
CMPs begin carrying out FY 2021-2025 strategies October 1, 2021
OCM issues FY 2021 PSM awards October 1, 2021


For more information on Phase I Assessments:


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 2021 - 2025 Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategies

The Virginia CZM Program has begun the 2021 - 2025 Coastal Zone Enhancement Process.

The Program has completed a Phase 1 Assessment of the Commonwealth's coastal resources and management efforts.  

Comment on this Phase I Coastal Needs Assessment and the ranking of "High Priority" areas no later than March 16,  2020 to Laura.McKay

View the draft Phase 1 Assessment and learn more on the Coastal Needs Assessment 2021 - 2025 webpage.

For more information on 
Phase I Assessments:

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

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