New Jersey Analysis
The Ocean and Coast
New Jersey has 1,792 miles of shoreline along 127 miles of Atlantic-facing coast and 83 miles of bay front on Raritan and Delaware Bays. State waters extend three nautical miles offshore. The coast has extensive sand beaches and barrier islands which are maintained with an active coastal engineering program. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation and, as a result, has experienced extensive shoreline development.
Most ocean and coastal management programs in New Jersey are housed within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP general contact information is listed immediately below. More specific program contact information can be found under specific topic headings.
Marine Conservation Agreements
As of February 2009, a formal law, policy, or spatial data analysis related to Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) in New Jersey had not been completed. As such, we do not have a clear picture of what is legally possible, nor do we have a clear understanding of the ownership and leasing patterns across the coastal landscape and seascape. At this time, organizations wishing to pursue MCAs in New Jersey should undertake site-specific assessments or work with state agency staff to evaluate opportunities statewide. If organizations pursue MCAs in New Jersey, several local, state, and federal authorizations may be required. The information that follows provides context for and information regarding possible authorization needs.
Submerged Lands — Tidelands
The state of New Jersey owns submerged lands, called tidelands or riparian lands, under state waters up to the mean high tide line, except where those lands have been sold by the state. Public trust rights in New Jersey include fishing, boating, recreation, and access to the shore, tidelands and tidal waters.
Shoreline owners have rights to be the first to apply to use tidelands bordering their property, but must pay for a grant, lease or license to do so. Grants are most often made in areas already filled. Licenses generally cover temporary structures, such as docks and mooring piers, and dredging operations, for a term of three to five years. Leases, most often used for marinas and homes over water, generally have a term of 20 years.
Coastal Zone and Shoreline Development
New Jersey’s Coastal Zone extends inland as far as the nearest road or as far as 24 miles, depending on the region of the state, and includes coastal waters to the limit of tidal influence. The New Jersey Coastal Program is managed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in partnership with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, and is based primarily on three pieces of legislation: the Coastal Area Facilities Review Act, the Wetlands Act of 1970, and the Waterfront Development Act. Within the DEP, the Land Use Regulation Program reviews coastal permits under the three acts, the Engineering and Construction Program manages dredging and shore protection projects (including beach nourishment), and the Green Acres and Coastal Blue Acres programs acquire lands to link existing open space and to provide buffer areas from storm damage. The Coastal Program also includes the Tidelands Program (above). MCA projects affecting tidelands will likely require both coastal permitting and a lease or license for tidelands.
New Jersey Meadowlands Commission
1 DeKorte Park Plaza
Lyndhurst, NJ 07071
As part of New Jersey’s application of the Public Trust Doctrine, the public right of access to the shore has been interpreted to include access to various stretches of dry sand beach. The amount of dry sand required varies case-by-case depending on the configuration of the shore and human uses.
New Jersey has an extensive program of shoreline protection and beach nourishment run by the Bureau of Coastal Engineering in the Department of Environmental Protection.
Beach water quality is monitored under the Cooperative Coastal Monitoring program administered by the Department of Environmental Protection in cooperation with the Department of Health and Senior Services and local governments.
Fish, Wildlife, and Aquaculture
DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, through its Bureaus of Marine Fisheries, Shellfisheries, and Wildlife Management, reviews coastal permits for impacts on fisheries and wildlife.
The Bureau of Shellfisheries administers the shellfish aquaculture leasing program, with approximately 30,000 acres under lease. The Bureau surveys 30-50 sites a year to determine if they are suitable for leasing. Submerged lands leased for shellfish aquaculture must not be natural shellfish beds.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Fish and Wildlife
Bureau of Shellfisheries, Bureau of Marine Fisheries, Bureau of Wildlife Management
P.O. Box 400
Trenton, NJ 08625-0400
Tel: Marine Fisheries 609-292-2083, General Information 609-292-2965
Email web form
The New Jersey DEP contains the Divisions of Water Quality, Watershed Management, and Water Monitoring and Standards. The Division of Water Quality regulates the proper treatment and discharge of wastewater. The Division of Watershed management runs nonpoint source and stormwater programs. It also runs coastal clean-up programs and participates in three national estuary programs in the state. Water Monitoring and Standards (WMS) sets surface water standards and monitors water quality in fresh and salt waters. WMS opens and closes shellfish beds depending on tested water quality.