Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program

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The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area (CBCA), often referred to as just the Critical Area, spans the shoreline of Harford County, surrounding the largest estuary in the United States: the Chesapeake Bay. In an effort to protect the bay, the Critical Area has been delineated as the space 1,000 feet inland from the mean high tide line. The intent of the Critical Area is to preserve the water quality of the bay as well as the wildlife habitat along the shoreline. As stated in Harford County’s master plan, HarfordNEXT, “The protection and restoration of Harford County’s environmentally sensitive areas is paramount to maintaining a high quality of life for our citizens.” For these reasons, local and state regulations have been implemented to govern these sensitive shoreline areas collectively known as the Critical Area.

Local regulations

The CBCA is a program maintained by the cooperative efforts of local and state governments. Harford County manages and enforces the Critical Area program through County Zoning Ordinance, § 267-63 of the Harford County Zoning Ordinance, which outlines the unique responsibilities that property owners have in the Critical Area. Property improvements such as driveways, walkways, accessory structures, and even certain kinds of yard work must comply with Critical Area regulations.