Through its Port and Harbor Planning Program, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) works with coastal communities to ensure that waterfront areas grow in a safe, environmentally sound, and economically prosperous manner and that potentially competing uses are balanced to maximize public benefits. CZM provides support to communities in these related areas:

  • Municipal Harbor Plans - A Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) establishes a community’s objectives, standards, and policies for guiding public and private use of land and water within the jurisdiction of the Public Waterfront Act (Chapter 91). Through an MHP, a community can develop long-term, municipally based strategies to balance competing uses of the harbor. MHPs also provide communities with the ability to tailor the state Chapter 91 Regulations to local land-use needs and priorities. CZM provides direct technical assistance to communities that are developing and updating MHPs, and reviews these plans to ensure that the meet state standards.
  • Designated Port Areas - To promote and protect marine industrial activities, Massachusetts has established 11 Designated Port Areas (DPAs)—each with a mix of features needed to support businesses that require close proximity to the ocean, such as commercial fishing and shipping. CZM supports community planning to promote maritime development in DPAs and plays a major role in the state’s review of DPA Master Plans (components of MHPs that cover DPAs).
  • General Harbor Planning - While a state-approved MHP is required to modify the Chapter 91 Regulations, communities may wish to use a less formal harbor planning approach when Chapter 91 regulations are not an issue. Communities can successfully develop plans for balancing harbor use, resource protection, and/or development without pursuing state MHP approval—avoiding the extensive MHP regulatory review process. CZM is available to provide assistance and guidance for these general harbor planning activities, such as the development a mooring plan or a plan to promote maritime business.
  • Dredge Planning - CZM works with communities to identify management solutions for dredged materials to facilitate channel dredging and port development while minimizing impacts to marine and cultural resources. In addition to direct technical assistance to communities and the review of dredging proposals, CZM developed the Massachusetts Dredged Material Management Plan—complete with extensive technical materials and Environmental Impact Reports to address state regulatory and management issues in Massachusetts’s four major ports outside of Boston: Gloucester, Salem, New Bedford/Fairhaven, and Fall River.

CZM’s five Regional Coordinators serve as liaisons with the 78 coastal communities and have extensive experience with MHPs, DPA Master Plans, and less formal harbor planning activities. For information on the communities they cover and how to contact them, see CZM Regions.