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Division of Land Use Regulation
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Construction of a Dock or Pier

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

Dock

Docks and piers are utilized along New Jersey watercourses for fishing, crabbing, watercraft mooring,  as well as the loading and unloading of passengers and/or cargo.  Dock and/or pier construction, repair, and/or reconstruction may result in impacts to “special areas” that are regulated by the Department and may require multiple approvals from the Division of Land Use Regulation.  For example, an area containing sensitive aquatic species may be irreparably damaged by a dock and/or pier.  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 dock and pier 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 maintenance, construction, or reconstruction of a dock or pier 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.

A General Permit 1 "Maintenance and repair of existing features" may be obtained if you have an exsiting dock or pier and are conducting repairs or maintenance to it and not increasing disturbances to freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open waters.

A General permit 19 "Docks and Piers" may be obtained for activities in freshwater wetlands and/or transition areas to gain access to State open water for the construction of a new dock or pier or the expansions of an exsiting dock or pier. Please click on the link above for more information.

If the project for a dock or pier 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.

Dock and/or pier construction within regulated areas requires authorization of some type under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules.  If the project is regulated pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7, then no separate Flood Hazard approval is required.  In these instances, the applicant need only submit a report and plans demonstrating compliance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules as part of the coastal permit application.

Assuming there is no jurisdiction pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management rules, authorization may be granted under a Permit by Rule (PBR).  Potential qualifying PBRs include those found at N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(a)6, N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)6, or N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)14.  Please refer to the rules to see the all of the applicable conditions where each PBR would apply.  Some special notes about these PBRs are listed as follows.

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(a)6 – In order to qualify for this PBR, please note that this is only for a boat launching ramp, with a footprint of no more 2,000 square feet. In addition, with this PBR, the Department’s Division of Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement must be notified of construction at least 2 weeks prior to the start of any construction.

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)6 – In order to qualify for this PBR, please note that the controlling flood hazard area must be tidal, as opposed to fluvial.  

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)14 – In order to qualify for this PBR, the dock must have a footprint of no more than 1,000 square feet, including decking and piling. Examples of a impounded water would be a lake, pond or reservoir.

There are no Flood Hazard General Permits available to permit the construction of Docks and Piers.

A project that is not eligible for one of the aforementioned PBRs and is not be regulated under the Coastal Zone Management rules, will require a Flood Hazard Area Verification and Individual permit prior to construction. The technical standards are described in Subchapters 9, 10 and 11 of the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules.

Docks and/or piers may be supported on pilings driven into the bottom substrate (fixed), floating on the water surface, or cantilevered over the water.  Dock and/or pier construction, repair, and/or reconstruction within coastal areas generally requires a permit.  These activities may qualify for an exemption, Permit-by-rule, 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 Exemptions: 

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 dock, wharf, pier 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 dock, wharf, or pier shall be measured in two dimensions, that is, length and width. 

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 4 - authorizes construction of nonresidential docks, piers, boat ramps, and decks located landward of 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 does not exceed the width of the structure waterward of the mean high water line; and
  • For docks and piers, the width of the structure over wetlands does not exceed 6’ and the height of the structure shall be a minimum of 4’.

Please be advised, this PBR does not authorize a boat ramp located within wetlands.  Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7-4.4 for the complete rule requirements.

PBR 5 -authorizes construction of a portion of a recreational dock or pier located landward of 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;
  • The width of the structure landward of the mean high water line does 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 14 -authorizes reconfiguration of any legally existing dock, wharf, or pier at a legally existing marina, provided the marina is not located within shellfish habitat, submerged vegetation habitat, or a wetland and provided the proposed reconfiguration:

  • Does not extend outside of the area covered by an existing Tidelands instrument;
  • Does not result in an increase in the number of boat slips;
  • Does not hinder navigation;
  • Does not increase the total linear footage of docks or piers within the marina;
  • Provide a minimum of four feet from all property lines, for docks which are perpendicular to the adjacent bulkhead or shoreline; and
  • Minimizes the water area covered by structures by:
    • Providing a minimum of 8’ of open water between any docks if the combined width of the docks over water exceeds 8’; and
    • For sites which have existing dock or pier structures exceeding 8’ in width over water areas and/or wetlands, which were constructed prior to September 1978 and for which the applicant proposes to relocate, the existing oversized structures must be reduced to a maximum of 8’ in width over water areas and 6’ in width over wetlands and intertidal flats.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7-4.14 for complete rule requirements.

Potentially applicable General Permit-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 (GPs):

GP 1 - authorizes amusement pier expansion

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.  

A dock or pier that is 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 or a tidelands grant if any portion of 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 8, 2015