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CZM Port and Harbor Planning Program - Designated Port Areas

Find information on the state’s 10 Designated Port Areas (DPAs) and the role of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) in the DPA program.

To promote and protect water-dependent industrial uses, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has established 10 Designated Port Areas (DPAs): Gloucester Inner Harbor, Salem Harbor, Lynn, Mystic River, Chelsea Creek, East Boston, South Boston, Weymouth Fore River, New Bedford-Fairhaven, and Mount Hope Bay. These DPAs have features important for water-dependent industrial uses—such as commercial fishing, shipping, and other vessel-related marine commercial activities—and/or for manufacturing, processing, research, and production activities that require marine transportation or access to large volumes of water. See DPA Boundary Maps for links to the official maps, DPA descriptions, and GIS data.

This web page covers the purpose of the DPA program in supporting existing and prospective water-dependent industrial uses, DPA regulations and program implementation, and DPA Master Plans.

For other information and materials related to DPAs and port and harbor planning, see:

Purpose of the DPA Program in Supporting Water-Dependent Industrial Uses

DPAs are land and water areas with certain physical and operational features that have been identified to have state, regional, and national significance with respect to the promotion of water-dependent industrial uses and commercial activities that rely on marine transportation or the withdrawal or discharge of large volumes of water. State policy seeks to preserve and enhance the capacity of the DPAs to accommodate water-dependent industrial uses and prevent the exclusion of such uses from tidelands within DPAs. This policy includes preserving extensive amounts of DPA land for existing and prospective water-dependent industrial uses, particularly on waterfront sites, and maintaining (preserving) the predominately marine industrial character of the DPA. While water-dependent industrial uses vary in scale and intensity, they all generally share a need for infrastructure with three essential components: 1) a waterway and associated waterfront that has been developed for some form of commercial navigation or other direct utilization of the water; 2) backland space that is conducive in both physical configuration and use character to the siting of industrial facilities and operations; and 3) land-based transportation and public utility services appropriate for general industrial purposes.

DPA Regulations and Program Implementation

The DPA regulations (301 CMR 25.00) work in conjunction with the Chapter 91 regulations (310 CMR 9.00) and with the provisions of the Municipal Harbor Plan regulations (301 CMR 23.00) governing the review and approval of DPA Master Plans. DPA policy is implemented by CZM on behalf of the Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA). CZM is responsible for the review of DPA Master Plans (see next section). In addition, CZM is responsible for establishing, mapping, interpreting, and periodically reviewing DPA boundaries, and for DPA boundary administration (see DPA Boundary Maps for links to the official DPA maps and descriptions). Through federal consistency review, CZM also ensures federal actions and permits in or impacting DPAs 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 the tidelands/jurisdictional areas of DPAs. Chapter 91 regulations license the placement of fill in DPA tidelands, as well as allowable structures and uses in areas within Chapter 91 and DPA jurisdiction. While these regulations allow limited supporting and accessory uses on filled tidelands within DPAs, they require a large majority of DPA tidelands to be used or reserved for water-dependent-industrial or limited temporary uses.

Finally, CZM provides technical assistance to communities and supports proactive planning to promote maritime development, prevent user conflicts, and accommodate supporting industrial and commercial uses. See CZM Port and Harbor Planning Program - Technical Assistance for details.

DPA Master Plans

Under the Municipal Harbor Plan regulations (301 CMR 23.00), CZM works with municipalities to take a comprehensive approach to DPA planning 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 within the MHP regulations, which include measures to preserve and enhance the capacity of the DPA to accommodate water-dependent industrial use and to prevent substantial exclusion of such use by any other eligible uses. 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. For further details, see the DPA Master Plans section on the CZM Port and Harbor Planning Program - Municipal Harbor Plans page.

Chapter 91 regulations allow Supporting DPA Uses to occupy up to 25% of the filled tidelands area of a project site located in a DPA. Through an approved DPA Master Plan, the 25% numerical standard for the project site can be waived provided certain conditions and controls are maintained that help ensure the viability of existing and prospective water-dependent industrial uses is maintained on the project site. The degree of additional flexibility on any individual project site is dependent on meeting the regulatory requirements of Chapter 91 and the DPA Master Plan approval standards. Transferring or aggregating Supporting Uses onto one or more project sites within a DPA does not eliminate the need to meet all other non-numeric regulatory requirements in Chapter 91 and the DPA Master Plan approval standards. 

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