The purpose of this paper is to define the requirements of the Coastal Barrier Improvement Act (CBIA) of 1990 (P.L. 101-591) that should be considered by decision-makers when reviewing beach nourishment projects. The CBIA was enacted on November 16, 1990. The CBIA resulted in reauthorization of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) of 1982. The CBRA establishes the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) to protect areas such as undeveloped coastal barrier islands. The CBIA expanded the CBRS to include “otherwise protected areas” (private or public lands that are held for conservation purposes). Areas within the CBRS that may support development are designated as ineligible for federal assistance unless they conform to designated purposes for protection of the area. Some specific limitations to federal expenditures within the CBRS include construction (or purchase) of structures or roads, availability of flood insurance for new or substantially improved structures, and erosion prevention or stabilization projects. This act does not restrict activities carried out with private or other non-federal funds. Federal expenditures are authorized for activities associated with energy resources; navigation channels; public roads; national security; Coast Guard facilities; wildlife enhancement, protection, and management; public health and safety; and restoration of natural shoreline stabilization systems. Some issues associated with the act that are addressed in this paper include interpretation of the exemptions, influence on development, inclusion of certain coast barrier units, and boundaries associated with “otherwise protected areas” included in the CBRS.
The purpose of this paper is to address the established limits and issues associated with the Coastal Barrier Improvement Act (CBIA) of 1990 (P.L. 101-591) that should be considered by decision-makers when reviewing beach nourishment projects. The CBIA of 1990 was enacted on November 16, 1990 to reauthorize the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) of 1982. The CBRA established the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS), which includes areas such as undeveloped coastal barrier islands.
Coastal barriers (coastal barrier islands) are geologically recent depositional sand bodies that are highly variable in size, shape, and response to natural processes and human alterations. The dynamic nature of coastal barriers results in constant shifting of sand and modification by winds and waves (USGS 1995). Coastal barriers contain many sensitive habitats and species that can be adversely impacted by beach nourishment activities such as mining offshore sand sources or depositing sand on an eroded beach (NOAA 2002). Primary factors affecting coastal areas such as coastal barriers include land subsidence (sediment compaction), storm impacts, coastal processes (waves, winds, tides), sea level change, sand supply, human activities (dredging, dams, mining, shoreline structures, withdrawal of oil, gas, and water), and regional tectonic movements.
Types of coastal barriers include bay barriers, tombolos, barrier spits, barrier islands, dune or beach barriers, and fringing mangroves (USFWS 2002a). The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) defines six characteristics of coastal barrier islands as follows (USFWS 2002b):
- Coastal barrier islands are low lying areas directly exposed to coastal storm and sea level rise effects, and may be hazardous to permanent human use and occupancy;
- Coastal barrier islands buffer the mainland from storm impacts;
- Coastal barrier islands protect and maintain estuarine systems that support vital fishing and shellfishing industries;
- Coastal barrier islands consist primarily of unconsolidated sediments;
- Coastal barrier islands are subject to forces of waves, wind, and tidal energy; and
- Coastal barrier islands include associated aquatic habitats that the non-wetland portion of the barrier protects from direct wave action.
In 1982, the Department of the Interior began to identify undeveloped coastal barrier islands for inclusion in the CBRS. Areas within the CBRS that may support development are designated as ineligible for federal financial assistance. The CBIA and its amendments prohibit the spending of new federal expenditures that tend to encourage development or modification of areas within the CBRS (USFWS 2002c). The CBIA expanded the CBRS to include “otherwise protected areas” (private or public lands that are held for conservation purposes). Examples of “otherwise protected areas” include national wildlife refuges, national parks and seashores, state parks, and lands owned by private organizations for conservation purposes. New construction within the “otherwise protected areas” cannot receive federal flood insurance unless it conforms to designated purposes for protection of the area. Restrictions are not placed on other federal expenditures in these areas.
The intent of CBIA is to reduce federal subsidies and discourage development within CBRS areas (NOAA 2002). The purpose of the act is to eliminate federal development incentives on undeveloped coastal barrier islands to prevent loss of human life and property from storms and to protect habitat for fish and wildlife (ACC 1999). Long-term survey data demonstrates that coastal erosion is affecting all coastal states and approximately 80 percent of U.S. coastal barrier islands are undergoing a net long-term erosion rate.
CBRS designated areas were greatly expanded with the passage of the CBIA of 1990, based on recommendations from the USFWS (NRC 1995). The CBIA expanded the definition of a coastal barrier and added to the CBRS areas in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the Great Lakes, and additional areas along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The CBIA also directs the USFWS to develop a study reviewing the need to protect coastal barrier islands along the Pacific Coast of the U.S. (USFWS 2002c). The CBRS currently includes just under 600 units, totaling almost 1.3 million acres and 1,200 shoreline miles, from Maine to Florida on the Atlantic Coast; from Florida to Texas along the Gulf Coast; in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; and in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota on the Great Lakes (NRC 1995). The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a listing of CBRS units for each state, as well as additional information links. CBRS units are delineated on maps based on water levels and topography that are prepared and maintained by the USFWS. With the exception of minor technical changes, CBRS boundaries cannot be adjusted, expanded, or reduced unless Congress enacts revisions to a CBRS map (ACC 1999). Maps are reviewed every five years to reflect changes from natural causes.
The CBIA protects coastal barrier islands without restricting the use of private property. Inclusion of property in the CBRS does not prevent development of that property. Some limitations to federal expenditures within the CBRS include construction (or purchase) of structures or roads, availability of flood insurance for new or substantially improved structures, and erosion prevention or stabilization projects. Specific examples of prohibited federal expenditures within the CBRS include, but are not limited to, those listed in Table 1.
As stated above, CBIA restricts the availability of new federal assistance to develop property within the CBRS and no new federal flood insurance can be issued for these properties. Existing flood insurance policies for properties within the CBRS remain in force. If the property is damaged, it cannot be rebuilt with federal flood insurance assistance if the cost of rebuilding is more than 50 percent of the value of the property. If an insured structure in the CBRS is substantially expanded or replaced with additional development, insurance coverage is lost for that structure. For structures located in the “otherwise protected areas,” insurance may be obtained if written documentation is provided that certifies the structure use is in a manner consistent with the protected area’s purpose. If an existing structure is substantially damaged or improved, federal flood insurance will not be renewed. If a policy is issued in error, the policy will be cancelled and the premium refunded. A claim cannot be paid even if the error is found after a claim is made (FEMA 2002).
This act does not restrict activities carried out with private or other non-federal funds and only applies to the areas that are within the defined CBRS (USFWS 2002c). In addition, actions to process and issue federal permits necessary for development are not prevented by inclusion of property in the CBRS (ACC 1999). Federal financial assistance limited by CBIA does not include deposit insurance or purchase of mortgages by government chartered corporations and programs unrelated to development, such as entitlement payments to individuals (ACC 1999).
The CBIA limits federal expenditures within the CBRS. Examples of permissible and prohibited expenditures are listed in Table 1. Additional types of projects considered allowable based on consistency with the purposes of the CBIA include (USFWS 2002c):
- Projects for the study, management, protection, and enhancement of fish and wildlife resources and habitats;
- Establishment, operation, and maintenance of air and water navigation aids and devices, and for access thereto;
- Projects under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 and the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972;
- Projects for scientific research;
- Assistance for emergency actions essential to saving lives and the protection of property and the public health and safety; and
- Nonstructural projects for shoreline stabilization that are designed to mimic, enhance, or restore a natural stabilization system.
The Department of the Interior is the lead agency for this legislation. For activities conducted within the CBRS, federal agencies must document compliance with CBIA, and this documentation must be reviewed by the Secretary of the Interior. Agencies must consult with the USFWS concerning proposed spending in these areas. This consultation process is depicted in Figure 1.
Some issues associated with the act include interpretation of the exemptions, influence on development, inclusion of certain coast barrier units, and boundaries associated with “otherwise protected areas” included in the CBRS. The boundaries of the otherwise protected areas in the CBRS were mapped in conjunction with conservation areas. However, some errors and inconsistencies have been noted with these boundaries. As a result, congressional action is required to correct these maps and exclude properties that were included in error (ACC 1999).
Although the removal of federal funding assistance has discouraged development in some coastal barrier islands, development has continued in other areas despite designation as a unit of the CBRS. The CBIA is not intended to prevent or regulate development in high-risk areas; rather the intent is to direct that federal dollars not be spent for development in these areas. Activities conducted in areas adjacent to CBRS units may adversely impact these sensitive areas; these activities are not regulated under CBIA. In addition, CBIA does not restrict the use of private, local, or state funding within CBRS units. Some coastal states have initiated legislation that limits state funding of certain projects.
American Coastal Coalition (ACC). 1999. “Beach Nourishment Background Factsheet, ACC Backgrounder: The Coastal Barrier Resources Act of 1982.” www.coastalcoalition.org/facts/cobra1982.html. May 2002.
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). 1999. State Environmental Management Office. Project Development and Environmental Manual. Chapter 26, Coastal Barrier Resources. September 30, 1999.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 2002. ” National Flood Insurance Program, Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) Information Sheet.” Factsheet number 20381. www.dewberry.com/FIP/NFIP/FactSheets/20381-CBRS.htm. May 2002.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). 2002. “Coastal ServicesCenter. Beach Nourishment in the Southeast, Legal and Political Constraints.” www.csc.noaa.gov/opis/html/bchleg.htm. May 2002.
National Research Council (NRC). 1995. Beach Nourishment and Protection. Committee on Beach Nourishment and Protection, Marine Board, Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems, National Research Council. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 1995.
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2002a. ” Division of Federal Program Activities. Coastal Barrier Resource System Factsheet Overview.” www.fws.gov/cep/cbrfact.html. May 2002.
USFWS. 2002b. ” Division of Federal Program Activities. Coastal Barrier Resource System Factsheet: What are Coastal Barriers?” www.fws.gov/cep/whatbarr.html. May 2002
USFWS. 2002c. “Division of Federal Program Activities. Coastal Barrier Resource System Factsheet: Prohibition on Federal Expenditures.” www.fws.gov/cep/prohibfe.html, May 2002.
Williams, S. J. and J. B. Johnson. “Coastal Barrier Erosion: Loss of Valuable Coastal Ecosystems,” inOur Living Resources: A Report to the Nation on the Distribution, Abundance, and Health of U. S. Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems. Washington, DC. 1995.