Main Content

Coastal Barrier Resources System

The purpose of this page is to define the Coastal Barrier Resources System, a commonly used term in floodplain management.


The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) was passed by Congress in 1982 to encourage conservation of hurricane-prone, biologically rich coastal barriers. CBRA prohibits most new federal expenditures that encourage development or modification of coastal barriers. Therefore, most new or substantially improved residences, businesses, or other developments in the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) are not eligible for certain federal funding and financial assistance, including coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Development can still occur within the CBRS, as long as private developers or other non–federal parties bear the full cost.

CBRS boundaries are shown on maps that were originally adopted by Congress, and with few exceptions, only Congress can change the CBRS boundaries. The official CBRS maps are maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Accessing CBRS Boundaries

Beginning February 15, 2019, CBRS boundaries will no longer be depicted on static, legacy Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) issued by FEMA, but will be available through the National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL) Viewer. FEMA and the USFWS are working together to help stakeholders access the most up-to-date information on CBRS boundaries. Using out-of-date information to find out whether a property is eligible for flood insurance under the NFIP can have serious financial impacts.

  • A fact sheet from FEMA and USFWS about these important changes is available here
  • The official CBRS maps may be downloaded on the USFWS website at
  • The most up-to-date CBRS boundaries can be found via the USFWS’s online CBRS Mapper at
  • Digital CBRS boundaries for use in GIS software are available via USFWS at
  • Although CBRS boundaries will be removed from the National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL), the CBRS live map service from the USFWS will be delivered along with the NFHL map service on the NFHL Viewer at
  • FEMA’s Flood Insurance Manual contains information to help users determine whether a building is eligible for NFIP coverage. Park-related structures within OPAs and structures that existed prior to the food insurance prohibition date for any given area may be eligible. The manual is available at

Responsibilities and Restrictions

Various FEMA programs have different responsibilities and restrictions under CBRA:

  • NFIP
  • Disaster Relief Assistance provided under the Robert T. Stafford Act, including:
    • Mitigation Grants
    • Public Assistance
    • Individual Assistance

The USFWS also has responsibilities under CBRA. 

               CBRA and the NFIP

  • The NFIP cannot provide flood insurance coverage for structures built or substantially improved after the area is designated as a CBRS unit (initial designations went into effect on October 1, 1983). 
  • The NFIP may provide flood insurance for units built or substantially improved before the subject property was included in a designated CBRS unit. 
  • If an NFIP-insured building within a designated CBRS unit is substantially improved or substantially damaged, the NFIP policy will be cancelled. 
  • NFIP flood insurance can be provided within CBRS units for new structures supporting conservation uses. 
  • Minimum NFIP floodplain management standards do not prohibit the rebuilding of substantially damaged buildings in CBRS units. However, such structures must meet the community's floodplain management regulations, and NFlP coverage is not available for such structures. 
  • For more information, see: 71.3 Denial of Flood Insurance.


               CBRA and FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Program

  • Acquisition projects in CBRS units and OPAs are eligible only under the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM), Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA), Repetitive Flood Claims (RFC), and Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) programs.
  • Acquisition projects are not eligible under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) unless those acquisitions are consistent with the purposes of the CBRA. Qualifying purposes include projects for the study, management, protection, and enhancement of fish and wildlife resources and habitats.


               CBRA and Public Assistance 

  • Emergency Work
    • FEMA may reimburse or conduct emergency work such as debris removal and emergency protective measures to eliminate immediate threats to lives, public health, safety, and property.  Advance consultation with USFWS is encouraged but not required for these activities. A report to USFWS, however, is required. 
  • Permanent Work
    • FEMA may reimburse permanent work on certain types of publicly owned facilities, which may be eligible for permanent repair assistance (but not expansion): 
      • Essential links to larger systems 
      • Restoration of existing navigable channels 
      • Repair of energy facilities that are functionally dependent on a coastal location 
      • Special-purpose facilities such as navigational aids and scientific research facilities 
      • Existing roads, structures, or facilities that are consistent with the purposes of CBRA 
    • FEMA must consult with USFWS to allow comment before funding is approved for these activities. 


               CBRA and Individual Assistance 

  • FEMA may provide Individual Assistance to applicants in CBRS units for the following: 
    • Financial Temporary Housing Assistance (i.e., Rental Assistance), if they meet the eligibility requirements 
    • Medical, dental, and funeral expenses related to necessary expenses and serious needs 
    • Assistance to repair or replace personal property (e.g., furniture, clothing, and other necessities) if applicants prove they have permanently relocated outside the CBRS or OPAs 
    • Crisis Counseling, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, and Disaster Legal Services 


  • FEMA cannot provide Individual Assistance to applicants in CBRS units for the following:  
    • Housing Assistance (i.e., Direct Assistance, Repair, Replacement, or Permanent/Semi-Permanent Construction) for a housing unit in a CBRS unit. 
    • Miscellaneous personal property items, such as chainsaws, generators, dehumidifiers, etc. 


               USFWS Responsibilities 

  • Maintaining CBRS maps 
  • Maintaining the administrative record for each unit 
  • Consulting with federal agencies to determine if funds can be spent within CBRS units 
  • Determining whether properties are within CBRS units 


Related Keywords

Last Updated: 
03/06/2019 - 11:35