The Massachusetts coastal program was created in response to the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) of 1972. The CZMA established a voluntary program that gives coastal states the funding and the opportunity to develop and implement plans to manage coastal resources. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management—the federal agency that administers the CZMA—has established a flexible framework that enables states to develop strategies that meet their specific needs within their state governmental structure. The CZMA also gives states the authority to review federal projects, federally financed projects, and projects receiving federal licenses and permits to ensure that they abide by state laws, regulations, and policies.
The development of the Massachusetts coastal program began in 1974 with a Governor’s Task Force on Coastal Resources, and the process included extensive participation from state agencies, the state legislature, local officials, environmental and other interest groups, business organizations, and citizens. These efforts culminated in 1978 with NOAA approval of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts final coastal zone management program plan—making Massachusetts the first state on the eastern seaboard with a federally approved coastal program. Five years after the Massachusetts coastal program received its initial federal approval, the state Legislature passed Chapter 589 of the Acts of 1983—An Act Relative to the Protection of the Massachusetts Coastline—which contained several important provisions defining the role of the coastal program and its policies in state government, including the formal establishment of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and a directive that all departments and divisions within EEA assist in the implementation of the coastal program.