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Division of Land Use Regulation
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Boat Lifts & Boat Ramps

  • Overview
  • Freshwater Wetlands
  • Flood Hazard
  • Coastal
  • Tidelands

Boat lifts and ramps provide access points for personal watercraft along New Jersey’s lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers, and bays.  Installing boat lifts and ramps at the interface of land and water may result in impacts to “special areas” that are regulated by the Department and may require multiple permits from the Division of Land Use Regulation.  For example, an area containing sensitive aquatic species may be irreparably damaged by a boat ramp or lift.  Therefore, it is important to closely examine a proposed project relative to the sensitive areas on site.  Special areas can be rudimentarily determined using the Department’s online mapping service, NJ-GeoWeb

The above tabs provide additional information on permit requirements relating to boat lift and boat ramp projects.  For impacts to streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, flood plains, flood ways, riparian zones, please see the "Flood Hazard" tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please see the "Coastal" tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, see the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab.  Information on Tidelands can be found by selecting the "Tidelands" tab.

The construction of a boat ramp or lift within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit. Two FWW General Permits (GP) are available for this activity, a GP1 and a GP19.

General Permit 1 - Maintenance and repair of existing features - May be obtained if repairs are being made to an exsiting boat ramp or lift, or install of a boat ramp, lift, or any access point to the open water is being constructed within the landward side of a man-made bulkhead and not increasing distrubances to freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open waters.

General Permit - 19 Docks and Piers - Can be obtained for activities in freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open water if the following;

  1. The proposed boat ramp is for use by the public. Private boat ramps are not covered by this general permit.
  2. The activites proposed shall disturb no more than one tenth of an acre of frehswater wetlands, transition area, or State open waters.

If the project for boat ramp or lift cannot comply with the criteria for a GP-1 or a GP19, the applicant would need to apply for an Individual Permit (IP). An IP application would need to include a description as to why the project cannot be minimized to satisfy the General Permit criteria described in the links above.

Boat lifts and ramps are regulated by the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7.  For sites located outside of coastal areas, there is a potential Flood Hazard Area Permit by Rule (PBR), N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(a)6.  If the project does not qualify for the aforementioned PBR and is not subject to the Coastal Zone Management rules, then the boat lift/ramp can only be constructed in a portion of a man-made impoundment, such as a pond or lake.

The construction of boat lift, jet-ski lift, and/or ramp within coastal areas generally requires a permit.  The construction and/or reconstruction of these structures may qualify for an exemption, a Permit-by-rule, a General Permit-by-certification, or a General Permit.  If the project does not meet the requirements of the aforementioned authorizations, a CAFRA, Coastal Wetlands, and/or Waterfront Development Individual Permit may be required.

The “Jurisdiction” tab of the "Coastal Areas" webpage can help you determine which areas of your site may be regulated.  The availability of certain permits depends on the project’s location.

Potentially applicable Exemption:

Per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.4(d)8, a Waterfront Development Permit shall not be required for the repair, replacement, renovation, or reconstruction, in the same location and size, as measured in two dimensions, that is, length and width,  of the preexisting structure, of any floating dock, mooring raft, or similar temporary or seasonal improvement or structure, legally existing prior to January 1, 1981, that appears on the applicable Tidelands Map, or that appears on the applicable coastal wetlands map identified pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.4(c) and chapter Appendix D, or that received a waterfront development permit subsequent to the date of the Tidelands Map or coastal wetlands map, as applicable, provided that the repair, replacement, renovation, or reconstruction is in the same location and size as the preexisting structure, and does not exceed in length the waterfront frontage of the parcel of real property to which it is attached and is used solely for the docking of servicing of pleasure vessels. 

Potentially applicable Permits-by-rule (PBRs):

PBR 5 - authorizes the construction of portion of a recreational dock or pier located landward of the mean high water line, provided:

  • A waterfront development permit has been obtained for the construction waterward of the mean high water line;
  • The width of the structure landward of the mean high water line shall not exceed the width of the structure waterward of the mean high water line; and
  • Over wetlands, the width of the structure shall not exceed 6’ and the height of the structure shall be a minimum of 4’.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7-4.5 for complete rule requirements.

PBR 10 - authorizes the construction of a portion of a boat ramp located landward of the mean high water line at a residential development, provided:

  • A waterfront development permit has been obtained for the construction waterward of the mean high water line.

Please be advised, this PBR does not authorize a boat ramp located within wetlands and the width of the boat ramp landward of the mean high water line shall not exceed the width of the boat ramp waterward of the mean high water line.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7-4.10 for the complete rule requirements.


Potentially applicable General Permits-by-Certification:

The General Permit-by-Certification 15 at N.J.A.C. 7:7-5.2 of the Coastal Zone Management rules authorizes construction of piers, docks, including jet ski ramps, pilings, and boatlifts in man-made lagoons.

Potentially applicable General Permits (GP):

GP 15 - authorizes the construction of piers, docks including jet ski ramps, pilings and boatlifts in man-made lagoons

Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center at (609) 777-0454 should you require further assistance.

Tidelands, also known as riparian lands, are all those lands now or formerly flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway; that is to say any land that is currently or was previously covered by tidal waters.  The State of New Jersey, and therefore the people of New Jersey, owns all Tidelands except for those to which it has already sold its interest in the form of a riparian grant.  

The construction of a boat lift and/or a boat ramp that are proposed in a tidelands area may require a tidelands license if the activities are taking place at or below the mean high water line of a tidal waterway and/or a tidelands grant if the activities are taking place in an area that is currently landward of the mean high water line but was, at some point, flowed by the tide. It is important to note that the State generally does not own artificial waterways such as lagoons however, the State does claim those lands within a lagoon that were flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway which existed prior to the creation of the lagoon.

A tidelands license is a short term revocable rental document to use tidelands generally for structures such as docks, bulkhead extensions, mooring piles, and other temporary structures as well as for dredging projects. Licenses are project specific and expire after a finite term ranging from one to ten years. Most licenses may be renewed.

A riparian grant, or tidelands grant, is a deed from the State of New Jersey selling its tidelands. Tidelands grants are generally only issued for lands that have already been filled in and are no longer flowed by the tide.

For more information on tidelands instruments, please see the tidelands section of this website.

For information and instruction on how to determine whether you are in an area that may require either a license or a grant, or for information how to apply for Tideland instruments please see the "Before you Build, Before you Buy" webpage.

 

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Last Updated: July 14, 2015