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Diving Deeper Shorts: Coastal Zone Management

Episode 19 (May 10, 2012)

HOST: 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Coastal Zone Management Act, an act which has proven to be one of America's best tools to safeguard our coastal areas. In celebration of this 40th anniversary, today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on coastal zone management from February 2011 with Bill O'Beirne from the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

Let's listen in.

HOST: What kinds of threats do our coasts and coastal communities face?

BILL O'BEIRNE: Kate, the short answer is the coasts are being over-indulged. How many people do you know visit the coast or want to live or retire to the coast?

And as you pointed out, more than half the U.S. population lives in the coastal counties. Population density on the coast is almost four times greater than the rest of the country. I remember when you could actually drive along the North Carolina outer banks and never see a traffic jam.

And more people mean more development - more homes, more schools, more offices. And more people and more development mean more competition for space, greater pressures to develop fragile coastal resources, fewer places to get to the beach, and more pollution. More people and structures mean more lives and buildings are at risk from coastal hazards like hurricanes, tsunamis, flooding, and landslides.

Our program, the Coastal Zone Management Program, attempts to mitigate these threats while accommodating coastal development.

HOST: So Bill, on that note, can you tell us a little bit more about the Coastal Zone Management Program? How does it work?

BILL O'BEIRNE: Kate, unlike a lot of other top-down environmental programs, the Coastal Zone Management Program is a cooperative partnership between NOAA and the coastal states and territories.

The overarching goal of the national program, set out in the Coastal Zone Management Act, is to balance the protection of the coastal ecosystems with economic and human quality of life issues - like access to the beach and vibrant coastal communities.

NOAA offers financial and other incentives to coastal states and territories to participate in the national program. In turn, the states and territories develop and put into practice their own personalized management programs to advance these national as well as their own state goals.

HOST: What exactly is the coastal zone?

BILL O'BEIRNE: Simply put, the coastal zone is where the land meets the sea. More technically, it extends seaward to the limit of state waters and inland to cover an area that has direct and significant impacts on coastal waters.

While we think of the coastal zone as a narrow strip, it's actually a pretty big area. All totaled the coastal zone includes almost 100,000 miles of shoreline and encompasses roughly 425,000 square miles of coastal lands and water. That's an area about twice the size of Texas.

Want to learn more? Go to and select the February 2011 podcast archive to listen to the full interview on coastal zone management.

You can catch our next episode in two weeks.