Coastal Barrier Resource System Boundary Modifications

Congress established the  John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System
Learn more about the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System, which was established under the Coastal Barrier Resources Act in 1982.

Learn more about John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System
 (CBRS) with passage of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) in 1982. The CBRS, which was modified and expanded by Congress in 1990, consists of the relatively undeveloped coastal barriers coastal barriers
Learn more about coastal barrier landforms.

Learn more about coastal barriers
and other areas located on the coasts of the United States that are identified and depicted on a series of maps maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). When technical mapping errors are found, Congress works with Service to comprehensively revise the CBRS boundaries and enact technical correction legislation to adopt the revised CBRS map.  

How can the CBRS boundaries be changed? 

Aside from three minor exceptions, only Congress has the authority to modify boundaries of the CBRS through legislation. The three exceptions are: (1) the CBRA 5-year review requirement that solely considers changes that have occurred to the CBRS due to 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. While the Service has only limited authority to make boundary changes administratively, we do have a mandate to prepare draft revised maps that make recommendations to Congress for changes to the boundaries, including additions to and removals from the CBRS

Who can request a boundary modification? 

Any property owner or other interested party who believes a technical mapping error led to the inclusion of land in the CBRS may submit a request for that land to be removed from the CBRS. Additionally, interested parties may request that the Service evaluate additions to the CBRS. Most additions to and removals from the CBRS require review by the Service and adoption of revised maps by Congress to become effective. However, the Service may administratively make additions to the CBRS if the owner of a parcel requests, in writing, that the Secretary of the Interior add the parcel to the System. The parcel must be an undeveloped coastal barrier in order to qualify for voluntary addition to the CBRS.

What are the criteria for removals from the CBRS? 

When the Service is asked to evaluate the removal of an area from the CBRS, 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 structure
    Something temporarily or permanently constructed, built, or placed; and constructed of natural or manufactured parts including, but not limited to, a building, shed, cabin, porch, bridge, walkway, stair steps, sign, landing, platform, dock, rack, fence, telecommunication device, antennae, fish cleaning table, satellite dish/mount, or well head.

    Learn more about structure
    per five acres of land above mean high tide

  2. an undeveloped coastal barrier does not contain a full complement of infrastructure, which includes a road (with a reinforced road bed), fresh water supply, wastewater disposal system, and electric service to each lot or building site in the area  

These criteria were originally published in the Federal Register (47 FR 15696) by the Department of the Interior and were later codified by Congress in the Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act of 2000 (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 of our 2016 report to Congress on the Digital Mapping Pilot Project.

Note: 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).  

Supporting documentation

If you believe an area was inappropriately included within the CBRS, you may provide documentation (preferably in the form of official records) to the Service that supports your claim. Such documentation may include the following: 

  • information from the local government with the dates of construction for the structure(s) in question 

  • ​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 roadbed) was on the ground for the area in question

How to submit a request 

You may email requests for boundary changes and related documentation to the Service at

Related Resources & Information

Aerial view of an undeveloped coastal freshwater pond.
We administer the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA), which encourages the conservation of storm-prone and dynamic coastal barriers by withdrawing the availability of federal funding and financial assistance within a designated set of units known as the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS)....