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.
The CELCP competition only takes place if federal funding is allocated to the program. When the competition runs, NHCP solicits and ranks 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 the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Under the program, each of the 34 states with coastal management programs can participate. In addition, the CELCP process requires states to develop a CELCP plan in order to be eligible to nominate projects. The Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watersheds was initiated by the Coastal Program and Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership to help fulfill that requirement, and has since served as the foundation of the state’s CELCP plan. The Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests, The Nature Conservancy, and the Strafford and Rockingham regional planning commissions were all major players in the development of that plan. The New Hampshire CELCP Plan identified priority areas for CELCP funding within the coastal watershed and has been approved 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.
Prior to 2006, CELCP funds were exclusively allocated through the congressional appropriations process. However, the 2006 appropriations bill called for NOAA to create a national priority list for CELCP appropriations. The last CELCP competition was for the FY2012 funding cycle.
A New Hampshire proposal ranked Number 1 nationally in the 2006 competition. A partnership of organizations, including the Trust for Public Land, Bear-Paw Regional Greenways, and the town of Strafford worked together to conserve five properties in Strafford. The focal point of the initiative, a 287-acre parcel containing approximately 1.5 miles of frontage on the Isinglass River, was purchased with the help of a $1.3 million grant from the CELCP.