U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Coastal Barrier Resources System
Ecological Services

CBRS Boundary Modifications

Aside from three minor exceptions, only Congress has the authority to modify boundaries of the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) through legislation. The three exceptions are: (1) the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) 5-year review requirement that solely considers changes that have occurred to the CBRS by natural forces such as erosion and accretion; (2) voluntary additions to the CBRS by property owners; and (3) additions of excess federal property to the CBRS.  In 2016, the Service completed a 5-year review of 19 of the 23 states and territories that contain CBRS units. Learn more »

Congress designated the initial CBRS units in 1982 and modified and expanded the CBRS in 1990. When technical mapping errors are found, Congress works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to comprehensively revise the CBRS boundaries and enact technical correction legislation to adopt the revised CBRS map. A diagram illustrating the process by which technical mapping errors are addressed through comprehensive map modernization is below. Click here for information regarding the Service’s current mapping projects.

The Service receives numerous requests from property owners and other interested parties who seek to remove land from the CBRS, which has created a large backlog of units that require time and resource intensive technical correction reviews. The Service does not recommend removing lands from the CBRS unless there is clear and compelling evidence that a technical mapping error led to the inclusion of land in the CBRS. The Service considers a technical mapping error to be a mistake in the delineation of the CBRS boundaries that was made as a result of incorrect, outdated, or incomplete information (often stemming from inaccuracies on the original base maps). In order to determine whether a technical mapping error exists, the Service conducts a comprehensive review of the history of the CBRS unit in question, which includes an assessment of the Service's records for the unit, the controlling and historical CBRS maps of the area, historical aerial imagery and development status of the area (including the number of structures and level of infrastructure on the ground at the time of designation), an assortment of natural resource data, land ownership information, and any materials submitted by interested parties. 

What are the criteria for boundary changes?

When the Service is asked to determine whether a proposed change to remove land from the CBRS constitutes an appropriate technical correction, we consider whether the original intent of the boundaries is reflected on the maps (i.e. whether the lines on the maps appropriately follow the features they were intended to follow on the ground).  We also consider the level of development that was on the ground when the area was originally included in the CBRS. The CBRA requires that the Service consider the following criteria when assessing the development status of a CBRS unit: (1) the density of development on an undeveloped coastal barrier is less than one structure per five acres of land above mean high tide; and (2) an undeveloped coastal barrier does not contain a full complement of infrastructure, which includes a road, fresh water supply, wastewater disposal system, and electric service to each lot or building site in the area. These criteria were originally published in a notice in the Federal Register (PDF) by the Department of the Interior in 1982 and were later codified by Congress in the 2000 reauthorization of the CBRA (PDF) (Section 2 of Pub.L. 106-514). Additional information about the Service’s guiding principles and criteria for assessing modifications to the CBRS is available in Chapter 6 (PDF) of the Final Report to Congress: John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System Digital Mapping Pilot Project. Click here for more Information about the different types of CBRS boundary changes (i.e., removal, addition, reclassification, and transfer).

What information does the Service need?

If you believe an area was developed at the time it was included within the CBRS, you must provide documentation (preferably in the form of official records) to the Service that supports your claim. Please email this documentation to the Service at cbra@fws.gov. Such documentation may include the following:

  • information from the local government with the dates of construction for the structure(s) in question and
  • information from local utility companies and/or the local government with the date(s) that the infrastructure (sewer, water, electricity, and road(s) with a reinforced road bed) was on the ground for the area in question.
Last updated: November 6, 2019