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

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

Bulkheads are man-made vertical shore protection structures installed to withstand the forces of waves or currents. Bulkheads are commonly found along commercial, industrial, and residential waterfront property. 

Bulkhead construction, repair and/or replacement 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 prior to site preparation or construction. The presence or absence of special areas can be rudimentarily determined using the Department’s online mapping service, NJ-GeoWeb.  Special areas within your project site may also affect the type of authorization required.  An area containing sensitive and endangered plant species for example, may be irreparably damaged by bulkhead activities.  Therefore, it is important to closely examine a proposed activity relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted. 

The above tabs provide additional information on permit requirements relating to bulkhead construction, repair, and/or reconstruction.  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.

(General Permit 1 -- Maintenance and repair of existing features) [V:\lum\LUR\WebDev\fww\fww_gp01.html] is available for the replacement of an exsiting bulkhead that is collapsing or in disrepair. If a new bulkhead is being proposed within freeshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State Open Waters an (Individual Permit) [Link] (IP) is required.

Bulkheads are regulated pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7.  Bulkheads located outside of coastal areas are subject to the retaining wall standards of the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules.  There are no Permits-by-rule or General Permits available for retaining walls therefore, a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit is required.

Bulkhead construction and/or reconstruction within coastal areas generally requires a permit.  If the project does not qualify for the below described exemption, General Permit-by-Certification, or General Permits, 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)7, a Waterfront Development Permit shall not be required for the repair, replacement, renovation, or reconstruction, in the same location and size of any bulkhead 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. 7:7-2.3(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  as the preexisting structure, and does not increase the size of the structure and the structure is used solely for residential purposes or for the docking of or servicing of pleasure vessels. 

Please note, the size of any bulkhead shall be measured in two dimensions, that is, length and width.  However, low-profile bulkheads where the top of the bulkhead is constructed at an elevation below the spring high water line, shall be measured in three dimensions, that is, length, width, and height.

Potentially applicable General Permit-by-Certification:

The General Permit-by-Certification 10 at N.J.A.C. 7:7-5.1 of the Coastal Zone Management rules authorizes reconstruction of a legally existing bulkhead in-place or upland of a legally existing bulkhead.

Potentially applicable General Permit (GPs):

GP 6 - authorizes construction of a bulkhead and placement of associated fill on a man-made lagoon

GP10 - authorizes reconstruction of a legally existing functioning bulkhead

GP14 - authorizes bulkhead construction and placement of associated fill at a single-family home or duplex lot

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.  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.

Both new and/or replacement bulkheads 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. 

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 7, 2015