Chesapeake Bay Critical Area (CBCA)

Critical Area Infographic

Overview and Background

The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Protection Act, passed in 1984, was significant and far-reaching, and marked the first time that the State and local governments jointly addressed the impacts of land development on habitat and aquatic resources. Calvert County adopted the local Critical Area Program in December 1988 to implement the requirements of the Maryland State Critical Area Act.

The law identified the "Critical Area" as all land within 1,000 feet of the mean high water line of tidal waters or the landward edge of tidal wetlands, and all waters of and lands under the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. For Calvert County, that includes the Patuxent River.  A statewide Critical Area Commission (CAC) was created to oversee the development and implementation of local land use programs.

Critical Area Maps delineating the Critical Area have been formally approved as part of Calvert County’s Critical Area Program and are available online and in the office of Planning & Zoning.  Zoning regulations governing the Critical Area in Calvert County can be found in Article 8 of the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance.

Learn more about the Critical Area:

Critical Area Buffer and Buffer Management Plans (BMPs)

What is the 100-Foot Critical Area Buffer?

The Critical Area Buffer is an area of natural vegetation of at least 100 feet, measured landward from the mean high water line of tidal waters, tributary streams and tidal wetlands. The 100-foot buffer is expanded to include any contiguous sensitive areas, including steep slopes, hydric soils and highly erodible soils. Zoning regulations on development and clearing in the buffer can be found in the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance, Article 8.

When is a Buffer Management Plan (BMP) required in the Critical Area? Who prepares this plan?

Any disturbance in the 100-foot or expanded buffer must be mitigated through a Buffer Management Plan approved by the Department of Planning & Zoning. For removal of several individual trees and tree pruning, the property owner can prepare and sign a plan. For larger tree removal, removal of vines & briers, and replacement with desirable understory plants, the property owner may need the assistance of a professional.

Buffer Management Plan Preparation and Checklists

Maintenance Agreements

Samples of Buffer Management Plans - Critical Area Commission

Chesapeake Bay Native Plant Lists

Critical Area Commission Guidance for Buffer Management (PDF)

The Calvert County Reforestation Program

The Calvert County Critical Area Program requires the County to maintain 100 percent of existing forest cover within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area. When maintenance or replacement of forest cover onsite is not possible, a fee is collected to cover the cost of replacement on another tract within the Critical Area. These fees-in-lieu of replanting are held in the Critical Area Reforestation Fund and subsequently used to plant appropriate sites.

The Calvert County Critical Area Reforestation Program Evaluation (CARE) Committee oversees, reviews, and approves the planting sites and species for the program. For more information and to apply for "Free Trees in the Critical Area," please visit the CARE Committee page.