Coastal Barrier Resources System

Congress passed the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) to remove any federal incentive to develop some of the highest risk, most environmentally sensitive areas along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Great Lakes, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. CBRA does not bar purely private development of these areas where property owners are willing to assume the full cost of their building decisions, but they are not eligible for most forms of federal assistance, including flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. NAR supports the accurate mapping of CBRA zones so they are limited to areas which have never been developed and are truly high risk areas threatening loss of life or property.

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What is the Co​astal Barrier Resources System?

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) of 1982 established the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS), a defined set of coastal barrier units located along the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Island coasts. These areas are delineated on a set of maps that are enacted into law by Congress and maintained by the Department of the Interior through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). Most new Federal expenditures and financial assistance are prohibited within the CBRS. The prohibition that is most significant to homeowners and insurance agents is the denial of Federal flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for new or substantially improved structures within the CBRS. CBRA does not prevent development, and it imposes no restrictions on development conducted with non-Federal funds. Congress enacted CBRA to minimize the loss of human life, wasteful Federal expenditures, and the damage to natural resources associated.

What is a CBRA property determination?

A “CBRA property determination” is a determination made by the Service of whether or not a specific property is located within the CBRS. The Service’s determination is based upon materials provided by the requester and the official CBRS map of the area. The Service’s response contains an in/out determination and the prohibition date for Federal flood insurance if the property is located within the CBRS. This information is then used by the insurance agent and the NFIP to determine the Federal flood insurance eligibility of the property in question.

What materials should I submit to the Service for a CBRA determination?

When submitting a CBRA determination request to the Service, please provide a valid property address and include the following:

  • A map showing the location of the property – this can be a tax map, survey, plat map, or a map from a county GIS system. Maps from Google, Yahoo, or MapQuest are generally not accurate enough for a determination and are unnecessary. Please ensure that the correct property location is marked on all maps that are submitted, and that the correct address has been provided. The Service often receives conflicting information regarding the location and address of the property in question.
  • At least two of the following – a property record card, deed, elevation certificate, flood insurance application, flood policy declarations, copy of FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), and/or flood hazard determination. These items are used in conjunction with local government resources available online to confirm the location of the subject property. If sufficient information to complete the determination is not submitted, additional information will be requested and the case will be put on hold until the necessary information is received.

How does the Service make a CBRA determination?

The submitted materials are examined and the location of the property in question is confirmed, often using online resources such as property records and mapping tools provided by the local government. The property is then located in relation to the CBRS boundaries using digital parcel data, a plat or tax map, and/or aerial imagery, along with the official CBRS map for the area in question. The FIRM is not used to determine the placement of the CBRS boundary for official CBRA determinations.

Is there an appeals process for CBRA determinations?

There is not an official appeals process, however, interested parties may submit new information to the Service and ask for a reevaluation of the case if they believe a CBRA determination is incorrect. If the location of the property has been correctly determined in relation to the CBRS boundary, then the Service’s determination will not be changed.

Additional Questions about the CBRA

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: CBRS Overview

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: CBRS Enacted Maps

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: CBRS Online Mapper

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: CBRA Economic Report

GAO Final Report: Status of Development That Has Occurred and Financial Assistance Provided by Federal Agencies