The need for dune protection permits applies to private and public land seaward of the Dune Protection Line (line is generally 1,000 feet seaward of mean high tide; at North Padre Island the Dune Protection Line lies at the easternmost base of the seawall and adjacent bulkheads). State or national parks, wildlife refuges, preserves, or similar state or federal areas are exempt. Oil and gas exploration/production, livestock grazing, and certain other activities are exempt.

To apply for a dune protection permit from Nueces County, one submits a completed dune protection permit application containing detailed information on the proposed activity. "Small-scale construction" means construction activity less than or equal to 5,000 square feet or habitable structures less than or equal to two stories high. Single family habitable structures are typical of this type of construction. "Large-scale construction means construction activity over 5,000 square feet in area and habitable structures over two stories high. Permits for large-scale construction require submission of more information than is required for small-scale construction.

The application is reviewed by a citizens' advisory committee (the Nueces County Beach Management Advisory Committee) and then approved or denied by the Nueces County Commissioners Court.

Developers of large tracts of land may request adoption of a master planned development as an order of the Commissioners Court and amendment to the Nueces County Beach Management Plan. Master planned developments require submission of a comprehensive plan containing information about the proposed use of specific land and allow negotiation of terms and conditions unique to the development in questions. The permit follows the application process for dune protection permits.