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Wisconsin Coastal Zone Consistency Certification (13-WI-c)

Information current as of 2019
In Wisconsin, a person (developer) may need a Coastal Zone Consistency Certification (Certification) from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Council (CMS) if the developer’s project falls within or affects Wisconsin’s coastal zone, and involves federal activities, federal licenses or permits, and/or federal assistance programs. CMS reviews development proposals to determine whether projects are consistent with the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program (WCMP) in order to protect coastal resources. Wis. Stat. 281.35(9).


In Wisconsin, coastal zones and coastal waters are regulated by the WCMP. The WCMP is part of the nation-wide program established by the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). The CZMA is a voluntary state-federal partnership, which encourages states to adopt their own management programs in order to meet the federal goals of protection, restoration, and appropriate development of coastal zone resources. The national CZMA is overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) and regulated pursuant to 16 U.S.C. §1451 and 15 C.F.R. §930.

The CZMA allows states to develop coastal zone management programs, which sets out enforceable policies that guide federal actions that effect coastal lands and waters. Once a state’s coastal zone management program is approved, many projects authorized by a federal agency, including federally licensed hydroelectric, transmission, and geothermal projects, must comply with the state’s coastal zone management program. 15 C.F.R. §930; 16 U.S.C. §1456(c)(3)(A).

The CZMA applies to both projects located within the state’s coastal areas and to projects located outside of the state’s coastal areas that still affect the state’s coastal resources or coastal land and water uses. 16 U.S.C. §1456(c)(3)(A). The CZMA defines “coastal zone” as “the coastal waters (including the lands therein and thereunder) and the adjacent shorelands (including the waters therein and thereunder), strongly influenced by each other and in proximity to the shorelines of the several coastal states, and includes islands, transitional and intertidal areas, salt marshes, wetlands, and beaches. The zone extends, in Great Lakes waters, to the international boundary between the United States and Canada and, in other areas, seaward to the outer limit of State title and ownership[.]” 16 U.S.C. § 1453(1). In Wisconsin, the state’s federally approved WCMP is administered by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Council (CMS), within the Intergovernmental Relations Division of the Wisconsin Department of Administration.



Coastal Zone Consistency Certification Process

13-WI-c.1 – Provide Consistency Certification to Federal Agency and CMS

The developer must provide a consistency certification to CMS and the appropriate federal agency (usually the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)). The consistency certification submitted by the developer must contain the following statement: “The proposed activity complies with the policies of Wisconsin’s approved Coastal Management Program and will be conducted in a manner consistent with such policies.” Wisconsin Coastal Management Program: A Strategic Vision for the Great Lakes.

The developer must also provide information to support the statement, including:

  • Documentation of other permits the developer has applied for and/or obtained for the project;
  • A detailed description of the project;
  • An assessment of the probable coastal zone effects;
  • Findings indicating that the proposed project, its associated facilities, and their effects are consistent with WCMP policies; and
  • Any additional information requested by CMS (e.g. NEPA documentation).

Wisconsin Coastal Management Program: A Strategic Vision for the Great Lakes.

13-WI-c.2 to 13-WI-c.3 – Review Materials for Completeness

After receiving a consistency certification from the developer, CMS determines whether the consistency certification provides sufficient information for CMS to make a determination on the project’s consistency with the WCMP. If there is not sufficient information, CMS notifies the developer of the deficiencies. Wisconsin Coastal Management Program: A Strategic Vision for the Great Lakes.

13-WI-c.4 to 13-WI-c.5 – Provide Consistency Certification to State Agencies (If Applicable)

If the project does not require a state permit, CMS provides the developer’s consistency certification and supporting information to appropriate state agencies for review. The state agencies’ submit comments back to CMS, indicating if the proposed project does or does not comply with the applicable laws and regulations the state agencies administer. If the state agencies indicate the project does not comply, they may provide suggested modifications that would ensure compliance. Wisconsin Coastal Management Program: A Strategic Vision for the Great Lakes.

13-WI-c.6 to 13-WI-c.7 – Provide Public Notice

The federal agency issuing the permit (FERC, USACE, etc.) provides public notice of the project. If the project needs a state permit, the agency issuing the state permit also provides public notice of the project. Joint public notices may be issued by state and federal agencies.

After the appropriate agencies issue notice of the project, the public has a chance to comment on the consistency of the proposed permits with the WCMP policies. Wisconsin Coastal Management Program: A Strategic Vision for the Great Lakes.

13-WI-c.8 to 13-WI-c.11 – Review Consistency Certification

After the public has had a chance to comment on the proposed project, CMS reviews the information to make a determination on whether the proposal is consistent with the WCMP. If CMS does not issue a decision within three (3) months after CMS begins its review, CMS must notify the developer and the federal agency of the certification status and the basis for further delay. The developer can presume CMS concurs with the developer’s consistency certification if CMS has not objected to the consistency certification within six (6) months after beginning its review. Wisconsin Coastal Management Program: A Strategic Vision for the Great Lakes.

CMS must either concur or object to the developer’s consistency certification. If CMS objects to the consistency certification, CMS will attempt to resolve the disagreement through discussions with the developer and the federal agency. If CMS objects to the consistency certification, CMS provides the reasons why the proposal is inconsistent with the WCMP, and what alterations, if any, could be made to achieve consistency. The developer may also appeal CMS’ objection to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Wisconsin Coastal Management Program: A Strategic Vision for the Great Lakes.

13-WI-c.12 – Coastal Management Program Consistency Letter

If CMS concurs with the developer’s consistency certification, CMS notifies the developer of it’s determination at the earliest practicable time, and provides the developer with a letter indicating CMS’ concurrence with the consistency determination. Wisconsin Coastal Management Program: A Strategic Vision for the Great Lakes.


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Contact Information









Edit Wisconsin Department of Administration
Federal Consistency and Coastal Hazards Coordinator (608) 267-7988 kathleenabbazabbaangel@wisconsinabbazabbagov