Coastal Resources and Sea Level Rise


The coastal zone is home to thousands of coastal and water-dependent businesses and more than half of the U.S. population and encompasses the following:

  • our nation’s coastlines
  • ports and harbors
  • major coastal cities
  • oceans, bays, estuaries, and tidal rivers
  • islands and barrier beaches
  • coastal plains
  • tidal wetlands

Federal laws and regulations, including the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act, and the National Flood Insurance Act, recognize the environmental and economic importance of coastal areas and manage and regulate coastal development activities. Coastal states and municipalities have also adopted their own laws and regulations that apply to coastal development activities. These regulations continue to evolve as federal agencies and coastal jurisdictions become more conscious of the pace and extent of sea level rise; the growing risk of devastating coastal storm surges and the resulting implications for land use planning, infrastructure, development, and redevelopment; and the property rights of coastal area land owners. New development, and even the continued use, of coastal property presents regulatory challenges that call for experienced legal counsel.

Our Services

Robinson+Cole clients benefit from our knowledge and scope of experience in all aspects of coastal management, development, and permitting, including in these areas:

  • federal permitting by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, and Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act
  • federal flood plain mapping and amendments regulated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency

Members of both our land use and environmental practices have considerable experience assisting clients with business and development interests in coastal areas. We have represented businesses, property owners, and government agencies in a wide range of coastal legal matters, including permitting and regulatory compliance and strategy, administrative hearings, and litigation, including these specific types of work:

  • permitting for ports, ferry terminals, and marinas
  • approvals for construction of seawalls, docks, pilings, bulkheads, and erosion management strategies such as beach nourishment
  • defense of enforcement actions and resolution of disputes involving littoral and riparian rights
  • regulatory strategies and property rights considerations related to coastal regulation and coastal erosion management for property owners and prospective purchasers

Our Team

Robinson+Cole uses a multidisciplinary approach in advising and representing clients on coastal management, permitting, and policy issues and in administrative and judicial proceedings associated with coastal property ownership, development, and business activities. We leverage the skills of lawyers, environmental analysts, and lobbyists from practice areas throughout the firm, including the following:

  • Environmental, Energy + Telecommunications
  • Land Use
  • Real Estate + Development
  • Construction
  • Government Relations
  • Public Finance
  • Corporate
  • Litigation
  • Insurance
    • Experience
      • Represented dozens of different waterfront property owners, including yacht clubs, marinas, developers, and private property owners, before the Connecticut Department of of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Army Corps in applications for docks, dredging, and other coastal activities that implicated varied issues: 

         – new and maintenance dredging

         – tidal wetlands preservation and rehabilitation

         – the mitigation of tidal wetlands impacts

         – the impact on federally maintained navigation projects

         – shared dock agreements and littoral easements

         – the management, maintenance, and expansion of mooring fields

         – the exercise of littoral rights

         – the management of shellfish resources and the resolution of conflicts between shellfish industry interests and waterfront property  owners 

      • Represented a municipal port authority in obtaining municipal coastal site plan approval and state and federal coastal permits for improvements to a port/ferry terminal serving Connecticut and Long Island, New York.

      • Represented marina owner in a proposal to double the number of slips in the marina into the littoral area of an abutting property, which necessitated the establishment of a littoral boundary line and a littoral easement. Expansion was into a shellfish bed, which required the involvement of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Aquaculture, and the Attorney General's Office. The project also required an individual permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

      • Involved in multiple matters regarding local coastal site plan review under the Connecticut Coastal Management Act that include the following:

         – representing a shoreline beach community before a municipal planning and zoning commission to secure special use permits for new sewer and water systems

         – managing the municipal coastal site plan review permitting for the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut, for a sports and entertainmentcomplex, referred to as the Ballpark at HarborYard®, for the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut

         – representing the developer of a 400-slip marina with an office development

         – acting as an expert witness at a local zoning hearing concerning the impact of a variance on the town's participation in the National Flood Insurance Program

         – representing a coastal/marine environmental education organization in obtaining flood hazard and coastal site plan review permits for the redevelopment of a historic building into an environmental education center

      • Advised and represented various clients in connection with local coastal zone management regulations, including a popular New England island in the development of its zoning regulations, including coastal provisions, and a United States territory in the revision of its coastal zone management regulations.

      • Defended property owners and marine industry companies that are the target of enforcement actions by regulators involving alleged violations of coastal statutes. Specific matters included the following:

         – defending a marina after the issuance of a Notice of Violation by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for unauthorized changes to docks, which resulted in a negotiated resolution that permitted all existing structures without the need for a consent order or the payment of fines

         – representing a condominium developer in the defense of an enforcement action involving over 1,000 linear feet of bulkhead that was constructed without permits

      • Litigated lawsuits involving disputes over littoral/riparian rights and boundaries. While some of these matters were settled through negotiation, Robinson+Cole litigated some from the trial court through appellate review. Because they involve the determination of littoral boundaries and rights, these cases often determine the location and scale of a waterfront development.

      • In Connecticut, have represented waterfront property owners and developers in all aspects of the state’s coastal regulatory scheme, including before the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection under the Structures, Dredging and Fill Statutes, the Tidal Wetlands Act, the Coastal Management Act, and the Connecticut Water Quality Standards.

      • Have been involved in matters that implicated the authority of harbor masters, harbor management commissions, and state and local shellfisheries.

    • Publications + Presentations
    • "New Federal Speed Regulations for Coastal Waters" co-authored by John P. Casey, Michael S. Giaimo and Madeleine M. Laffitte (9/28/22)

      "The View from the Shore - Regulation as Far as the Eye Can See," published in New England Real Estate Journal, authored by John P. Casey (5/18/2012)

Our Team