Under CELCP legislation "the state lead agency will be responsible for: soliciting projects that are consistent with priorities outlined in the state’s plan, reviewing them for completeness, prioritizing them according to state criteria, and nominating projects to the national selection process." Eligible proposals have to be either located in the coastal zone, which includes the 17 New Hampshire towns nearest to the coast, or the coastal watershed, which encompasses 42 New Hampshire towns.
Each year, upon receiving the proposals, NHCP staff ranks project proposals using the CELCP criteria and ranking system, taking into careful consideration the projects’ ability to compete nationally. The CELCP goals and project criteria can be found in detail at the NOAA CELCP Web site. Then, NHCP staff hosts a public meeting to discuss the ranking and reach final consensus before sending proposals to NOAA.
A CELCP Plan is required by NOAA to qualify states to nominate coastal land conservation projects to receive CELCP funding. The Plan identified priority areas for CELCP funding within the coastal watershed and is in final review by NOAA.
In 2002, Senator Judd Gregg, in coordination with state and federal land conservation experts, established CELCP "for the purpose of protecting important coastal and estuarine areas that have significant conservation, recreation, ecological, historical, or aesthetic values, or that are threatened by conversion from their natural or recreational state to other uses," giving priority to lands that can be effectively managed and protected and that have significant ecological value.
In the past, CELCP funds had been exclusively allocated through the congressional appropriations process. However, the 2006 appropriations bill called for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create a national priority list for CELCP appropriations. In fall, 2005 and again in fall 2006, NOAA requested each state's coastal program to provide three project proposals at no more than $3 million apiece to compete on the national level for funding consideration.