History of the Coastal Zone Act

Then-Governor Russell Peterson and the Delaware General Assembly passed the Delaware Coastal Zone Act (CZA) in 1971. It was signed into law on June 28, 1971. The Act is designed to protect the coastal areas from the impacts of heavy industrialization and bulk product transfer and safeguard their use primarily for recreation and tourism.

At the time, the Coastal Zone Act prohibited future heavy industry and bulk product transfer activities from coming into the coastal zone and allowed manufacturing through a coastal zone permit.

Coastal Zone Regulations

From 1971 to 1999, there were no formal regulations to guide the permitting process. On October 31, 1997, then-Governor Thomas Carper created a Regulatory Advisory Committee from a group of Delaware business representatives and environmental advocates to develop a memorandum of understanding, signed by all participants, which would describe the concepts to be included in the Regulations Governing Delaware’s Coastal Zone.

After two public hearings, the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board voted unanimously to ratify a proposed set of regulations developed by DNREC.

The Regulations became effective on May 11, 1999. They provide guidance to the business community, state officials, and the general public as to what is expected and required in reviewing applications for coastal zone permits.

Conversion Permits

In 2017, Governor John Carney and the General Assembly amended the Coastal Zone Act with the Coastal Zone Conversion Permit Act to create a conversion permit that allows additional or alternative heavy industry uses on 14 grandfathered sites which were in operation in 1971. The 2017 Act encourages economic development and remediation of these sites, some of which are currently inactive or underutilized.

To amend the regulations, DNREC held public workshops and put together a Regulatory Advisory Committee to provide recommendations to the Secretary on what to include in the regulations. Committee members were selected via nomination and then finalized by the Secretary to represent a diversity of interests and views, including Delaware business representatives, environmental advocates, affected communities, government planners, and public health officials. The Committee was also informed by technical workgroups of experts in the areas of environmental impacts, economic effects, offsets, and financial assurance.

DNREC and the Regulatory Advisory Committee engaged with the public throughout the regulatory development process as well. Community meetings and open houses allowed opportunities for members of the public to voice any comments. After reviewing public comments, the Committee drafted a final report of recommendations for regulations. This report guided DNREC in drafting proposed regulations, which were published in the June 2019 edition of the Delaware Register of Regulations. A public hearing was held on June 24, 2019, with a comment period extending through July 9, 2019. DNREC reviewed the comments from the hearing and made necessary revisions to the proposed regulations.

The amended proposed regulations were approved by the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board on August 26, 2019, and the final regulations were published in the September 2019 edition of the Delaware Register of Regulations. The new regulations became effective September 11, 2019.