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Chesapeake Bay Critical Area


In 1984, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Law because of growing concern about the decline of water quality and the natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay. Land use immediately surrounding the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries has the greatest potential to affect water quality and habitat. A geographical area around the Chesapeake Bay's tidal waters and tributaries have been designated as "Critical Area" by the General Assembly and shown on the State Tidal Wetland maps. The Baltimore County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program was adopted in 1988.

The Program places all lands in the Critical Area into one of three land use categories, which are:

  1. Intensely Developed Areas (IDA)
    IDAs are residential, commercial, institutional, or industrial and developed land uses are predominate. Relatively little natural habitat occurs. Pollutant loadings must be reduced by 10 percent and Habitat Protection Areas must be protected. A minimum 100-foot buffer is required.
  2. Limited Development Areas (LDA)
    LDAs have low or moderate intensity uses and co-exist with natural plant and animal habitats. Runoff has not been substantially altered or impaired.
  3. Resource Conservation Areas (RCA)
    Natural resource areas such as habitats, wetlands and forests and resource-oriented activities such as farming and fishing predominate in RCAs.

Growth Allocation allows RCA to be converted to LDA or IDA, or LDA to be converted to IDA.

Environmental Impact Review Forms


Read regulations administered by Environmental Impact Review.

View fact sheets about the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area:

The Critical Area Commission offers information on the state's Critical Area Program, regulations, Citizen's Guide, riparian habitat and more.

Looking for an aerial view of you property? Go to MyNeighborhood to get an up-to-date view of your property.

Contact Information

Environmental Impact Review
Phone: 410-887-3980
Fax: 410-887-4804

Revised March 23, 2022         


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