Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NJDEP Proposes Consolidation and Amendment of Rules Governing Coastal Development

The June 2 New Jersey Register contained a notice from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) that the agency has proposed to consolidate the existing Coastal Permit Program Rules and Coastal Zone Management rules into one chapter and to make other changes on how development in coastal areas will be permitted in the future.

The proposed rules contain several components that appear to be beneficial for water quality, and also some troubling provisions.  For example, the definition of “dredged material” is modified so that it makes clear that it is not a solid waste under the Solid Waste rules.  This will enable increased beneficial use of dredged materials for beach protection, marsh creation, capping of contaminated soils or sediments, and other projects, as long as the material meets certain criteria.  On the other hand, provisions which will allow “permit by certification” for bulkhead reconstruction and recreational dock and pier construction in lagoons will streamline the process for homeowners and businesses, but eliminates much of the oversight on these types of projects, and fails to encourage natural living shorelines as alternatives.

COA is concerned that the proposed rule changes, which represent the first major overhaul of the coastal rules following Sandy, do not go far enough to address the threats that future climate change and sea level rise pose to our coastal areas – in fact, the phrases “climate change” and “sea level rise” are not mentioned even once in the over 1,000-page document released by the NJDEP.  The proposed rules also include provisions that encourage coastal development, including provisions that enable marina construction and expansion in certain areas of shellfish habitat and the construction of restaurants (non-water dependent uses) in certain new or existing marinas, which can cause increased litter in the marine environment.

A final public hearing will be held on Wednesday, July 9 at 11:00am at the Coastal Education Center of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, located at 130 Great Bay Boulevard in Tuckerton.  Written comments may be submitted either electronically or via regular mail by August 1, 2014.  Visit www.nj.gov/dep/rules for the full proposal and information on how to submit comments.

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