CAMA Information & Permits

The shorelines within the Town of Duck, adjacent to both the ocean and sound, fall under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA). CAMA was enacted to protect the resources of the coast as well as human lives and property. CAMA regulations require permits for certain “development” activities located within what CAMA refers to as the Area of Environmental Concern (AEC). This is the area within 75 feet of the normal waterline of the Currituck Sound and the area along the oceanfront directly adjacent to the frontal and primary dune system which is subject to greater risk of flooding and coastal erosion. Through a cooperative agreement, the Town administers CAMA minor permits on behalf of the State of North Carolina for certain types of projects. To determine if you need a CAMA permit, you will need to know if your project falls within an AEC and also if the project meets the state’s definition of “development” (see below).

Is my project located within an AEC? Your project is likely in an AEC if it is:

  • on or adjacent to a marsh or wetland;
  • within 75 feet of the normal water line along the estuarine (Currituck Sound) shoreline;
  • within the VE flood zone as determined by the most recent Flood Insurance Rate Map for the property;
  • on an oceanfront lot or located between the street and the ocean beach.

Does my project qualify as “development”?

CAMA defines development as: “any activity in a duly designated area of environmental concern … involving, requiring or consisting of the construction or enlargement of a structure; excavation; dredging; filling; dumping; removal of clay, silt, sand, gravel or minerals; bulkheading; driving of pilings; clearing or alteration of land as an adjunct of construction; alteration or removal of sand dunes; alteration of the shore, bank or bottom of the Atlantic Ocean or any sound, bay, river, creek, stream, lake or canal” {NCGS 113A-103(5)(a)}.

Can I recycle my natural Christmas tree as sand fencing?

Natural Christmas trees may be used for sand fencing but must be free of decorations and should be placed in a manner that meets the State’s rules for sand fencing:

  • Christmas trees should be placed as far landward as possible and should not impede existing public access to the beach, recreational use of the beach or emergency vehicle access.
  • Trees should not be installed in a manner that could impede, trap, or otherwise endanger sea turtles, nests or hatchlings when the nesting season returns in a few months. For example, trees should be installed at an angle no less than 45 degrees to the shoreline, no more than 10 feet seaward of the toe of the natural dune, and no less than seven feet between trees.
  • If sand fencing is present, a seven-foot separation between trees and sand fencing sections must also be maintained. Rows should be single tree width and not installed in conjunction with sand fencing. Unvegetated beach berms, or created “starter dunes,” are not considered natural dunes. Trees should not be placed at the seaward toe of these berms, starter dunes, or on the open beach.

To ensure compliance with all of the rules that apply to sand fencing, please review the standards outlined in 15A NCAC 07K .0212. If the proposed layout of trees along the beachfront does not meet these criteria, applicants should submit a CAMA Minor Permit application for review. For more information, please contact the local CAMA permitting authority or appropriate DCM district office.

Permit Types

There are three types of CAMA development permits: major permits, general permits, and minor permits. Additionally, some development may be authorized without a permit through the issuance of an exemption certificate. Through the Town’s local permit program, the Town is authorized to issue minor permits and exemption certificates. Major and general permits are issued by the Elizabeth City office of the Division of Coastal Management (see below).

Major Permits

You will need a major development permit if your project involves development in an Area of Environmental Concern and if it requires any of the following:

  • another state or federal permit, license or authorization, such as for dredging and filling within waters of the state, filling wetlands, storm water management, erosion and sedimentation control, wastewater discharge or mining;
  • excavation or drilling for natural resources on land or under water;
  • construction of one or more buildings that cover more than 60,000 square feet on a single parcel of land;
  • alteration of more than 20 acres of land or water.

General Permits

A general permit is issued for certain types of projects that have been determined to have little or no impact on the environment. These projects are usually located waterward of the normal water line on the estuarine shoreline or waterward of the mean high water line on the ocean/coastal shoreline. For complete detail of the potential projects that require a general permit, please click here.

How to Apply for a Major or General Permit

You can apply for a major or general permit by contacting the Elizabeth City Division of Coastal Management located at 1367 US 17 South, Elizabeth City, NC 27909. The field representative assigned to this area is Ron Renaldi and he can be reached at 252-264-3901 or via email at For a detailed description of the process to obtain either a major or general permit, please click here.

Minor Permits

Generally, minor permits are required for development located within the AEC associated with improvements to non-water dependent uses such as single-family dwellings or businesses. These permits generally apply to projects where there is limited land-disturbing activity and involving none of the activities that would initiate a major or general permit.

How to Apply for a Minor Permit

You may apply for a minor permit by contacting the CAMA Local Permit Officer (LPO) in the Town of Duck Administrative Offices. The primary LPO for Duck is Sandy Cross and she can be reached at 252-255-1234 or via email at Sandy will help you determine the CAMA permit requirements for your project and can assist you through the minor permit process if necessary.

The minor permit application and instructions may be downloaded in .pdf format by clicking here. The minor permit application without instructions may be downloaded by clicking here. It is highly recommended that you contact the Town’s LPO for a pre-permit review to ensure that you have all of the information necessary to submit your permit application. If your project is on the oceanfront, you will need to submit an AEC Hazard Notice with your permit application. The CAMA LPO will prepare this form which must be signed by the property owner.

Is My Work Exempt?

The following categories of work may qualify for an exemption:

  • Additions and modifications to simple structures, such as bulkhead, piers, etc. that were previously permitted;
  • Maintenance and expansion for certain state easements and/or state dredge & fill projects;
  • Emergency maintenance and repair activities in response to a sudden, unexpected event (such as a hurricane or other major storm) that significantly threatens life or property;
  • Single-family residences constructed in the estuarine shoreline AEC where there is no proposed improvements or land disturbing activity to occur within 40 feet of the normal water line other than a walkway to the water;
  • Single-family residences in the High Hazard Flood AEC (VE flood zone) which are located outside of the Ocean Erodible AEC (the CAMA LPO can determine this for you);
  • Accessory uses (structures related to the primary use of the site) that do not exceed 200 square feet of floor area and do not require electricity, plumbing or other service connections.
  • Structural maintenance and repair – CAMA exempts the maintenance and repair (but not replacement) of any damaged structure, provided the repair is less than 50 percent of the value of the structure, as determined by the Town’s Building Inspector.
  • Installation and maintenance of sand fencing installed and maintained in accordance with the criteria established by the Division of Coastal Management. To view the state’s guidelines for installation and maintenance of sand fencing, please click here.

If your work qualifies for an exemption, an exemption certificate must be obtained from the CAMA LPO or Division of Coastal Management representative, depending on the nature of the exemption. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS check with your Local Permit Officer or the Division of Coastal Management to determine if your project qualifies for an exemption BEFORE you begin work. There is no fee for most exemptions.

For all projects located in the AEC, the activities must be consistent with both CAMA regulations as well as the local jurisdiction’s ordinances CAMA Land Use Plan policies. Links to these documents as well as other useful information are included below. Please contact Town staff if you have questions regarding the consistency requirement.

Links Of Interest