A Guide to the Coastal Barrier Resources Act Requirements, Process, and Compliance

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) plays a crucial role in protecting our nation's vulnerable coastal barriers while safeguarding taxpayer investments. This comprehensive guide offers a deep dive into the intricacies of the CBRA, providing essential information for navigating its regulatory landscape. Readers will gain a thorough understanding of the Act's history, its mechanisms for protecting coastal resources, and the key compliance requirements for development projects within designated Coastal Barrier Resources System units. The guide also explores the CBRA's relationship with other environmental regulations and offers practical insights into enforcement actions, penalties, and available compliance assistance programs. By the end of this guide, readers will be well-equipped to make informed decisions, minimize regulatory risks, and contribute to the conservation of these invaluable coastal ecosystems.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Key Details of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act

Issuing Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior
Year Established: 1982
Last Amended: 2000 (Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act)
Statutory Authority: Coastal Barrier Resources Act
Primary Legal Reference: Title 16, Chapter 55 of the United States Code

What is the Coastal Barrier Resources Act?

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) is a federal law that aims to protect undeveloped coastal barriers along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Great Lakes coasts. The act was passed in 1982 to minimize the loss of human life, reduce wasteful expenditure of federal revenues, and protect the natural resources associated with coastal barriers.[^0] The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the Department of the Interior, is responsible for administering the CBRA.

The CBRA operates within the broader framework of coastal zone management and natural resource protection laws. It complements other federal environmental regulations, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act, by focusing specifically on undeveloped coastal barriers.

The primary mechanism of the CBRA is the establishment of the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS), which consists of undeveloped coastal barriers and other areas located on the coasts of the United States.[^1] The act restricts federal expenditures and financial assistance, including flood insurance, for development within the CBRS, thereby discouraging development in these areas and promoting conservation of natural resources.

The CBRA has undergone several amendments since its enactment, most notably the Coastal Barrier Improvement Act of 1990 and the Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act of 2000, which expanded the CBRS and further strengthened the act's conservation provisions.

What does the Coastal Barrier Resources {clear}ct protect?

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act protects undeveloped coastal barriers and their associated aquatic habitats, such as estuaries, inlets, and nearshore waters. These areas serve as essential habitats for various fish and wildlife species, including migratory birds, sea turtles, and other endangered or threatened species. The act protects these resources by discouraging development through the restriction of federal expenditures and financial assistance within the designated Coastal Barrier Resources System.[^3] By minimizing development in these sensitive areas, the CBRA helps maintain the natural functions of coastal barriers, such as providing storm protection, serving as natural buffers against erosion, and preserving the ecological integrity of these unique environments.

[^0]: "Coastal Barrier Resources Act," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, accessed May 10, 2023, https://www.fws.gov/program/coastal-barrier-resources-act. [^1]: 16 U.S.C. § 3503 - Establishment of John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System. [^3]: 16 U.S.C. § 3504 - Limitations on Federal expenditures affecting the System.

REGULATORY SCOPE & JURISDICTION

Regulated Activities, Entities & Prohibited Substances

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) is a federal law that aims to protect undeveloped coastal barriers along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Great Lakes coasts. The Act restricts federal expenditures and financial assistance, including federal flood insurance, within the designated Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) units.[^100] The CBRA does not regulate private development activities directly; instead, it discourages development by limiting federal support in these environmentally sensitive areas.

Prohibited activities and substances under the CBRA include:

  1. Federal flood insurance for new construction or substantial improvements of structures within CBRS units[^101]
  2. Federal expenditures for roads, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure projects that would support development in CBRS units[^102]
  3. Federal grants, loans, or other financial assistance for development projects within CBRS units[^103]

These prohibitions are designed to minimize the loss of human life, wasteful expenditure of federal revenues, and damage to fish, wildlife, and other natural resources associated with coastal barriers.[^104]

Key Sections of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act

Section 2 - Definitions

  • Defines key terms used throughout the Act, such as "coastal barrier," "new construction," and "substantial improvements"
  • Establishes the scope and applicability of the CBRA provisions
  • Essential for understanding the Act's requirements and limitations

Section 4 - Establishment of Coastal Barrier Resources System

  • Directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS)
  • Requires the creation of maps identifying CBRS units and their boundaries
  • Significant for determining whether a project falls within a protected oral barrier resources.[^109] Some states, such as Texas and Florida, have enacted their own coastal barrier protection laws that complement the federal CBRA.

[^100]: 16 U.S.C. § 3501 et seq. [^101]: 16 U.S.C. § 3504 [^102]: 16 U.S.C. § 3504(a)(3) [^103]: 16 U.S.C. § 3504(a)(1) [^104]: 16 U.S.C. § 3501(b)

COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS & STANDARDS

Regulatory Standards & Limitations

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) and its implementing regulations establish specific standards and limitations to protect coastal barriers and associated habitats. The key provisions include:

  1. Restricted Federal Expenditures: CBRA prohibits most new Federal expenditures and financial assistance within the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS), unless specifically exempted by law.1

  2. Development Limitations: Most new construction or purchase of a structure, facility, road, airport, port, or bridge is prohibited within the CBRS. Exceptions are made for certain activities, such as energy projects, military installations, Coast Guard facilities, and publicly-owned projects that support conservation.2

  3. Flood Insurance Restrictions: Federal flood insurance is unavailable for new construction or substantial improvements of structures within CBRS units. Existing structures built before CBRA's enactment may still be eligible for federal flood insurance.3

These standards are implemented through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) administration of the CBRS and enforced by the relevant Federal agencies responsible for providing financial assistance, permits, licenses, or other approvals for activities within the CBRS.

Monitoring, Reporting & Recordkeeping Obligations

Under the CBRA, there are no specific monitoring, reporting, or recordkeeping requirements imposed on private entities. However, Federal agencies are responsible for ensuring their actions comply with CBRA's restrictions and must consult with the USFWS to determine whether proposed projects or activities are located within the CBRS.4

Federal agencies must maintain records of their consultations with the USFWS and any decisions made regarding the expenditure of Federal funds or the issuance of permits, licenses, or other approvals for activities within the CBRS. These records are important for ensuring transparency and demonstrating compliance with CBRA's requirements.

Enforcement Actions & Penalties

The USFWS is responsible for monitoring compliance with CBRA and investigating potential violations. Enforcement actions may be initiated based on:

  • Routine Reviews: The USFWS periodically reviews Federal agency programs and activities to ensure compliance with CBRA.5
  • Targeted Investigations: The USFWS may conduct targeted investigations of specific projects or activities that are suspected of violating CBRA's restrictions.
  • Complaint-Driven Investigations: The USFWS may investigate potential violations based on complaints received from the public or other sources.

During an investigation, the USFWS may request documentation from the relevant Federal agencies and conduct site visits to determine whether a violation has occurred. Federal agencies are expected to cooperate with the USFWS and provide the necessary information to support the investigation.

Penalties for violations of CBRA may include:

Violation TypePotential Penalties
Unauthorized Federal expenditures- Withdrawal of Federal funding- Recoupment of expended funds
Issuance of unauthorized permits, licenses, or approvals- Revocation of permits, licenses, or approvals- Suspension or debarment of Federal agency personnel
Failure to consult with the USFWS- Administrative sanctions against the Federal agency- Corrective actions to address the violation

The severity of the penalty depends on factors such as the nature and extent of the violation, the intent of the parties involved, and the potential harm to the coastal barriers and associated habitats.

Compliance Assistance & Regulatory Incentives

To help Federal agencies and other stakeholders understand and comply with CBRA, the USFWS provides various compliance assistance resources:

  • Technical Assistance: The USFWS offers guidance documents, maps, and other resources to help Federal agencies determine whether proposed projects or activities are located within the CBRS and comply with CBRA's restrictions.6

  • Training and Workshops: The USFWS conducts training sessions and workshops for Federal agency personnel to educate them on CBRA's requirements and the consultation process.

  • CBRS Mapper: The USFWS maintains an online mapping tool that allows users to determine whether a specific here, users can determine if a specific area falls within the CBRS.

While there are no specific financial incentives or voluntary partnership programs associated with CBRA compliance, the USFWS encourages Federal agencies and other stakeholders to adopt best practices that promote the conservation of coastal barriers and associated habitats.

Entities seeking guidance on CBRA compliance should contact the USFWS's Coastal Barriers Coordinator at (703) 358-2171 or visit the CBRA website for more information.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Regulatory History & Upcoming Changes

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) was enacted in 1982 to address concerns about the development and protection of coastal barriers along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Great Lakes coasts.7 The act established the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS), which consists of undeveloped coastal barriers and adjacent areas that are protected by restrictions on federal expenditures and financial assistance that could encourage development.8

Key amendments to the CBRA include:

  • The Coastal Barrier Improvement Act of 1990, which expanded the CBRS to include undeveloped coastal barriers along the Florida Keys, Great Lakes, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.9
  • The Coastal Barrier Reauthorization Act of 2000, which directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a comprehensive review of the CBRS boundaries and make recommendations for changes to Congress.10
  • The Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act of 2006, which approved the revised boundaries recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and codified the CBRS maps as part of the CBRA.11

These amendments were driven by growing recognition of the ecological importance of coastal barriers and the need to protect them from unsustainable development. The expansion of the CBRS and the codification of the maps have strengthened the effectiveness of the CBRA in protecting these sensitive areas.

As of 2023, there are no major proposed rules, regulatory changes, or pending legislation related to the CBRA. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to work with Congress, other federal agencies, and state and local governments to maintain and update the CBRS maps as needed.12 Stakeholders should stay informed about any potential changes by monitoring the Federal Register, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, and relevant congressional committees.

Additional Resources

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service CBRA website: Provides an overview of the CBRA, maps, and guidance documents.13
  • CBRS Mapper: https://www.fws.gov/program/coastal-barrier-resources-act/maps-and-data - An interactive tool for exploring the CBRS boundaries and determining whether a property is located within the CBRS.14
  • "The Coastal Barrier Resources Act: Protecting Coastal Barriers and Taxpayers" by Robert Brumbaugh and James Brindley, published in the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law - An academic article discussing the history, effectiveness, and future of the CBRA.15

REFERENCES

  1. 16 U.S.C. § 3504

  2. 16 U.S.C. § 3505

  3. 42 U.S.C. § 4028

  4. 16 U.S.C. § 3503

  5. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (2019). Coastal Barrier Resources Act: A Summary.

  6. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Coastal Barrier Resources System: Official Maps.

  7. 16 U.S.C. § 3501 et seq.

  8. 16 U.S.C. § 3503

  9. Pub. L. 101-591, 104 Stat. 2931 (1990)

  10. Pub. L. 106-514, 114 Stat. 2394 (2000)

  11. Pub. L. 109-226, 120 Stat. 381 (2006)

  12. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Coastal Barrier Resources Act. https://www.fws.gov/program/coastal-barrier-resources-act

  13. https://www.fws.gov/program/coastal-barrier-resources-act

  14. https://www.fws.gov/program/coastal-barrier-resources-act/maps-and-data

  15. Brumbaugh, R., & Brindley, J. (2020). The Coastal Barrier Resources Act: Protecting Coastal Barriers and Taxpayers. Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law, 35(2), 201-230. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27006806

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A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the CBRA. However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.