Under the Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) regulations, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) works with municipalities to take a comprehensive approach to planning for their Designated Port Areas (DPAs) through DPA Master Plans. A DPA Master Plan is the component of an MHP pertaining to lands and waters of a DPA. The DPA Master Plan must comply with a series of approvability standards found within the municipal harbor planning regulations. These standards include measures to preserve and enhance the capacity of the DPA to accommodate water-dependent industrial use and measures to prevent substantial exclusion of such use by any other use eligible for licensing in a DPA. In a DPA Master Plan, a municipality may request flexibility for certain use standards, but must balance that flexibility with strategic elements that ensure that DPA interests are still protected.

The DPA regulations ( 301 CMR 25.00 pdf format of CMR 25.00: Designation of Port Areas ) work in conjunction with the Chapter 91 regulations (310 CMR 9.00) and with the provisions of the MHP regulations ( 301 CMR 23.00 pdf format of CMR 23.00: Review & Approval of Municipal Harbor Plans ) governing the review and approval of DPA Master Plans. DPA policy is implemented by CZM through its responsibility—on behalf of the Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs—for DPA Master Plan review and DPA boundary administration, as well as its federal consistency review authority to ensure federal actions and permits are consistent with enforceable state coastal policies. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) also implements DPA policy at the project level through the Chapter 91 regulations, which govern the licensing of structures and uses in DPAs. These regulations strictly limit the placement of fill or structures in DPAs to water-dependent industrial, accessory uses and a limited amount of supporting uses on filled tidelands. Local Conservation Commissions also have an important role through their local administration of the Wetlands Protection Act regulations.