The Permitting Process
If you want to build a house or commercial building, clear land, or otherwise develop property in the Commonwealth, you may need a coastal resources management permit.
You are encouraged to meet with the Division of Coastal Resources Management’s (DCRM) Permitting Section before applying for a permit for any project or activity which might affect coastal resources. If your proposed activity falls under DCRM jurisdiction, be advised that you must have written approval of your permit before starting work.
Please review our permitting tips below for more information about permit applications or contact the DCRM Permitting Section at (670) 664-8300 for answers to any questions you might have about your project.
If you are in the beginning phase of a potential project please contact our office for a pre-application meeting. We will assist you with your planning and help you through the permit review process. If you wish to locate your proposed project on the Island of Saipan or its surrounding waters we encourage you to also visit the Saipan Zoning website to learn if your plans are consistent with the Saipan Zoning Code.
CHECK WITH DCRM EARLY!
Early consultation with the DCRM Office will speed processing and approval of permit applications. When you fill out applications, please give us as much detailed information as possible to support the review process. Applications that are not complete will be returned with a request for more information. DCRM staff can help you make sure your application will have enough information for a successful review.
WHEN DO YOU NEED A PERMIT?
Under the law, specific areas require a coastal permit. We call these Areas of Particular Concern or APCs. Large scale activities may require a permit regardless of where they are located. We call these activities Major Sitings.
Areas of Particular Concern (APCs)
Before work begins on any project to be located wholly or partially within an APC, you must first have a valid coastal permit. There are 5 APCs in the Commonwealth:
- Shoreline APC – The area between the water line and 150 feet inland.
- Lagoon and Reef APC – The area extending seaward from the water line to the outer slope of the reef.
- Wetlands and Mangrove APC – Those areas which are permanently or periodically covered with water and within which can be found species of wetland or mangrove vegetation.
- Port and Industrial APC – Those land and water areas surrounding the commercial port of Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
- Coastal Hazard APC- Those areas identified as a coastal flood hazard zone (V & VE) in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
New areas in the Commonwealth may be designated as APCs if proposed by CRM agency officials, the CRM administrator or by members of the public. You will find maps of the present APCs at the BECQ Office in Gualo Rai.
Major Sitings are what we call projects proposed for locations on or in the lands and waters within the territorial limits of the CNMI that may directly and significantly affect coastal resources. Major Sitings include projects that may not be within an APC, however, are likely to result in detrimental impacts coastal resources. Such projects may vary greatly in size and scope and could include many activities including earth moving, home building, hotel construction, and road construction. A list of projects that are considered major sitings can be found in § 15-10-020(jj) of DCRM’s regulations. You can learn more about the major siting process, including resources and recommendations, in the Major Siting Guide here.
A project within an APC will be issued a Minor Permit if a major siting is not determined. Such projects might include construction of temporary or permanent pala palas or picnic shelters, public landscaping or beautification activities, single family home additions and strip clearing for site surveying or construction. Minor Permit requests must be acted on within 10 days after your application. If the CRM doesn’t act on the Minor Permit within ten working days, it will automatically be considered approved. DCRM may add conditions or restrictions to a Minor Permit. If you have any questions about whether your proposed project will require any sort of coastal permit, please call DCRM for further details.
APC Permits cost $200.00. Major siting permit costs are determined on a sliding scale based on the dollar value of the project. For more information, an applicant can refer to § 15-10-205(f) of DCRM’s regulations for permit fees or call (670) 664-8300 for further assistance.
HOW DO YOU APPLY FOR A PERMIT?
Remember: If you are planning a project or activity which might affect Commonwealth coastal resources, you must meet with the staff of the CRM Office before submitting your permit application.
The staff will advise you on whether the project or activity is wholly or partially located within an Area of Particular Concern or would be considered a Major Siting. You also must receive written approval of the permit before starting work on the project.
You can start your permit application online here.
When you submit your permit application, it will be distributed to the CRM Program Agencies. The agencies and the CRM are concerned with the economic, social and particularly the environmental impacts of the development in the Commonwealth. They will evaluate your project to determine both its positive and negative impacts on coastal resources. The review will also include an evaluation of the following:
- Are practical or reasonable alternatives available?
- Does the proposed project fit with nearby land and shoreline uses?
- Does the project meet Federal and CNMI air and water quality standards?
REVIEWING THE APPLICATION
Once CRM mails a notice of receipt of your complete permit application, the CRM Board Agencies will have up to 60 days in which to issue a final decision.
For those projects also requiring a federal license, permit or other approval, the CRM Board Agencies will have a maximum of 180 days in which to issue a decision.
Minor Permits must be acted on within two weeks or receive automatic approval.
In the case of a normal permit application, the review time may be considerable less than the maximum, depending on the quality and completeness of the permit application.
Again, DCRM staff can help insure that your first permit application will meet the requirements for a review.
Be aware that some project planned for coastal areas, particularly those in or near wetlands or coastal waters may also require a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit. For information on such permits, contact:
US Army Corps of Engineers
Honolulu District, Regulatory Office
Guam Field Office
Apra Harbor Naval Complex
PSC 455 Box 188
FPO, AP 96540-1088 Guam
Office: (671) 339-2108
The permit review will also help determine whether you need other permits and whether any of the CRM Program Agencies have special concerns about the project. For example, you might also need a business license or earthmoving permit to get a coastal permit. Your project might be near an archaeological site which needs special attention.
All major sitings require a public hearing. You can submit written comments regarding any project before the permit decision is issued. Any interested person may request a public hearing on any project by notifying the DCRM Office and submitting a written request. Residents of Rota and Tinian may submit comments and hearing requests to the local CRM Coastal Coordinator. All written comments and matters raised at public hearings will be made part of the permit record and will be considered in the coastal permit decision.
Major siting permit applications are reviewed by the following CRM Program Agencies: the Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR); Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ); Department of Public Works (DPW); Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, Historic Preservation Office (HPO); Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC); the Department of Commerce, and the Division of Coastal Resource Management (DCRM).
Based on their evaluation, the CRM Board Agencies will act to grant, conditionally grant, or deny the permit request. If a permit is denied, the applicant may appeal the decision. A local Appeals Board will hear and rule on appeals brought by applicants. All appeals must be submitted to the DCRM Office within 30 days of the permit decision. If the Board agrees with the permit decision, the applicant may then appeal to the Commonwealth Trial Court.
KEEPING TRACK OF THINGS
DCRM Enforcement Officers regularly monitor the islands. Permitted projects and other activities in areas under CRM jurisdiction are investigated. If a conditional permit has been issued, the officers will also report whether or not the specific conditions are being met.
Violators of DCRM laws and regulations may be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties.