Coastal Issues | Special Area Plans | In Depth

In Depth: Understanding Special Area Management Plans (SAMPs)

Special Area Management Plans can be useful coastal management tool. Below is more information on SAMPs.

What Types of Issues do SAMPs Address?

SAMPs are used to address one or more specific management goals within a specific geographic area. These goals can include: managing wetlands, beaches, dunes and water bottoms; improving public access to coastal waters; reducing properties and people at risk in coastal high hazard areas; improving coastal water quality; promoting waterfront redevelopment, port expansion or redevelopment; managing dock and pier proliferation; and protecting cultural, historic or aesthetic resources, among others.

Why SAMPs? What are the Objectives of SAMPs?

The goal of SAMPs in the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) is to increase policy specificity, and improve predictability of government decision making. To do this, SAMPs can be used to advance a number of objectives:

Refine More General Coastal Policy: SAMPs can refine or tailor existing policy in situations where more general coastal policies do not adequately address the specific conditions found in a particular area. Thus SAMPs can be considered a potential tool for adaptive management when needed to provide more specificity and predictability for certain areas.

Align Coastal Policy: SAMPs may also align policy and integrate planning, so that local, state and/or federal authorities have the same goals and policies. A SAMP can be a useful tool to address coastal issues where considerable policy fragmentation and/or multiple jurisdictions exist.

Improve Coordination Between/Among Jurisdictions: SAMPs can address areas with a history of long-standing disputes between various levels of authority concerning coastal resources, which have resulted in protracted negotiations over the acceptability of proposed uses. The SAMP planning process can be used to ensure all parties are working with the same data and information, to identify common goals and to work through specific disagreements.

Means to Address Cumulative and Secondary Impacts Where Case-By-Case Permitting Programs Fail: SAMPs can provide a means to better manage the cumulative and/or secondary impacts of individually innocuous uses (e.g., docks and piers) when permitting programs lack the ability to do so. For instance, it may be very difficult for a permit analyst to legally defend modifying or prohibiting a structure based on cumulative impacts due to issues of scientific uncertainty and/or equity issues. Community development plans can in some cases bridge these permitting gaps and provide a means to regulate and manage cumulative and secondary impacts.

Jump-Start Collaborative Planning: In some cases SAMPs can be used to jump start comprehensive or collaborative planning in areas where there are few to no existing formal mechanisms to conduct such planning at state, regional, or local levels.

What is the Geographic Extent of SAMPs?

SAMP boundaries can vary widely, depending on the issues and objectives being addressed. Historically, SAMP boundaries have encompassed one or more of the following:

What Makes a SAMP Effective?

Effective SAMPs address a number of issues including: evaluating the need for a SAMP; project leadership; the appropriate scope of the plan; key participants; effective implementation mechanisms; involvement of affected parties including the public; and time and resources.

Determination that a SAMP is Needed: SAMPs can be time and resource intensive so it is helpful to determine early on if a SAMP is really needed. Criteria for this determination include threats to significant resources or significant use conflicts which cannot be addressed with simple changes to existing authorities. Often multiple policies and authorities are involved; or a history of long standing disputes among jurisdictions.

Collaborative Planning/Leadership: SAMP effectiveness can be greatly improved with a strong commitment and willingness at all levels of government to enter into a collaborative planning process to produce enforceable plans. A designated leader or lead agency is needed to sponsor, organize and move the planning process forward. The leader or lead agency needs to be seen as an objective and neutral entity. If local communities are involved, identifying a "local champion" for the various localities involved can improve success. Commitments to the planning process from identified "key participants" also greatly enhance the chances for a successful plan.

Goals: To ensure better success, specific plan goals, benefits of, and desired outcomes should be identified and clearly articulated as early as possible. Key issues and conflicts should be identified and prioritized.

Key participants: Key participants should be identified and included in the planning process.

Boundaries: Plan boundaries should be clearly identified early on and based on the relevant issues and the jurisdictions involved. Designating the smallest geographic area necessary to address the issues or advance the SAMP's objectives is often the most effective.

Effective Implementation Mechanisms: SAMPs are most effective when they can transcend paper-plans and result in tangible on-the-ground improvements. Often, this means implementing the revised policies through changes to local or state ordinances, regulations, enforceable policies, or other substantive programmatic changes. Also, SAMP implementation is more effective when participants' roles and responsibilities are clearly outlined, often through a Memorandum of Understanding or Agreement.

Stakeholder Involvement: As with any coastal decision making process, SAMPs must provide for appropriate, timely, meaningful stakeholder and public participation in the development and implementation of the plan.

Time and Resources: SAMP planning can be resource intensive and the process may take substantially longer than envisioned – especially when aligning or coordinating policy across many jurisdictions or if issues are controversial.