The Critical Area Program is designed to minimize adverse impacts on water quality that result
from pollution; establish land use policies for development; and conserve fish, wildlife, plant
habitats in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area.
The Critical Area ordinances encourage the use of “soft” techniques to control erosion and
improve shoreline habitat where applicable. Two new laws were passed in 2008 - the Living
Shorelines Protection Act and the Revised Critical Area Laws.
Summary of the New Laws
- The 100-foot Buffer is expanded to 200 feet for new subdivisions in the RCA that remain
RCA and and applies to projects requiring site plan approval and involves a change in
land use in the RCA.
- The 200-foot Buffer does not apply to residential development on existing lots.
- Shore erosion control projects are now considered a type of "home improvement."
- Licensed home improvement contractors, marine contractors, builders, tree experts,
landscaping firms, and others can lose their licenses for Critical Area violations.
- Living shorelines will be the preferred method to reduce erosion effective from October 1,
2008; except in areas where it can be demonstrated that these measures are not
- In making the feasibility determination, MDE will consider areas of excessive erosion,
areas subject to heavy tides, and areas too narrow for effective use of nonstructural
- A waiver process will be part of the regulatory structure.