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

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Construction of a Dock or Pier

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

DockConstruction of a Dock or Pier, whether on a coastal or freshwater water body, is an important part of recreational and commercial activites in New Jersey. Because of its connection with water, and its potential for negative environmental impact, construction of a dock and/or pier are activities regulated by the Department.

Activities which may disturb special areas of the State that are regulated by the Department, including a Dock and/or Pier, may require an approval from the Division prior to construction. An area containing sensitive and endangered plant species for example, may be irreparably damaged by such activities. It is important therefore to closely examine a proposed project relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted.

Construction of a Dock or Pier may require multiple approvals from the Division, depending on the special areas impacted by the project. If you don't know what special areas are on your site, please check out the before you buy, before you build section of this website for guidance on determining if your site has one of these regulated special areas on it.

For information on Land Use permit requirements for construction of a Dock or Pier within specific "special areas", please click on each of the tabs above.*

*For impacts to Streams, Rivers, Lakes, Ponds, Flood Plains, Flood Way, Riparian Zones and other water body related areas, please click on the "Flood Hazard" tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please click on the "Coastal" tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, click on the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab. Information on Tidelands can be found in 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.

The construction of Docks and Piers in regulated areas requires authorization of some type under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules.  This depends upon whether or not the project area is regulated under the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) rules.  Specifically, if regulated under CZM, then no separate flood hazard approval is required.  In this case, the applicant need only submit a report and plans demonstrating compliance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules as part of the CZM permit application. 

Assuming there is no jurisdiction under CZM, authorization may be granted under a Permit by Rule (PBR).  Potential qualifying PBRs include those found in 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.

Should the project not be eligible under any of the aforementioned Permits by Rule, and should the project not be regulated under CZM, then the applicant must obtain a formal, written flood hazard area verification and individual permit prior to construction. The technical standards are described in Subchapters 9, 10 and 11 of the Rules.

Docks and piers are structures supported on pilings driven into the bottom substrate, or floating on the water surface or cantilevered over the water, used for fishing or for the mooring of watercraft, loading and unloading passengers or cargo.    The construction, reconstruction, repair, and maintenance of docks and piers located within CAFRA, Waterfront Development or Coastal Wetlands jurisdiction, unless exempt, generally requires a permit.  The construction of a portion of a dock or pier below the mean high water (unless in a manmade lagoon) requires an individual waterfront development permit.
Please refer to the “Jurisdiction” section of the "Coastal Permitting" section of the website to determine which areas regulated under the Coastal Permit Program Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7-1.1 et seq.) and the Coastal Zone Management Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-1.1 et seq.) occur on your site.  The availability of certain permits and exemptions for a project depend on where your project is proposed.
If the project does not comply with the requirements for a exemption, a permit-by-rule or a general permit, the project will generally require a Waterfront Development, CAFRA, and /or Coastal Wetlands Individual Permit.  Additional information regarding the Division’s coastal program can be found on the “Coastal Permitting” section of this website.  If necessary, please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center for further assistance.
These exemptions may apply to your project-- 

  • The repair, replacement, renovation, or reconstruction of docks or piers located within Waterfront Development jurisdiction provided they legally existed prior to January 1, 1981 and appear on the applicable 1971/1972 Coastal Wetlands map or the applicable 1977/1978 Tidelands map.  A dock or pier located over wetlands must be constructed in the same location and size (length, width, and height) as the pre-existing structure.  A dock or pier not located over wetlands must be constructed in the same location and size (length and width) as the pre-existing structure.  This exemption is referred to as a Zane Exemption.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.3(d)6 for information on all of the requirements of this exemption.
  • The repair, replacement, renovation, or reconstruction of floating docks located within Waterfront Development jurisdiction provided they legally existed prior to January 1, 1981 and appear on the applicable 1971/1972 Coastal Wetlands map or the applicable 1977/1978 Tidelands map.  A floating dock must be constructed in the same location and size (length and width) as the pre-existing structure.  This exemption is referred to as a Zane Exemption.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.3(d)7 for information on all of the requirements of this exemption.  The expansion of an existing, functioning amusement pier located within CAFRA jurisdiction provided such expansion does not exceed the footprint of the existing, functional amusement pier by more than 25% and provided such expansion is located in the area beyond 150 feet landward of the mean high water line, beach, or dune, whichever is most landward.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.1(c)8 for information on the requirements of this exemption.

This permit-by-rule may apply to your project --

  • Permit-by-Rule 5 authorizes the construction of the portion of a non-residential dock or pier located landward of the mean high water line provided the construction waterward of the mean high water line received a Waterfront Development permit.  If the dock or pier crosses mapped coastal wetlands. a separate Coastal Wetlands permit is required Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.2(a)5 for information on all the requirements of this permit-by-rule.
  • Permit-by-Rule 6 authorizes the construction of the portion of a recreational dock or pier located landward of the mean high water line provided the construction waterward of the mean high water line received a Waterfront Development permit.  If the dock or pier crosses mapped coastal wetlands, a separate Coastal Wetlands permit is required.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.2(a)6 for information on all the requirements of this permit-by-rule.
  • Permit-by-Rule 15 authorizes the reconfiguration of any legally existing dock, wharf, or pier located at a legally existing marina provided the project meets all requirements of this permit-by-rule.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.2(a)15 for information on the requirements of this permit-by-rule

These general permits may apply to your project --

  • Coastal General Permit 5  authorizes the expansion of an existing, functional amusement pier provided it meets all of the requirements of this general permit.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.5 for information on all of the requirements of this general permit.
  • Coastal General Permit 19 authorizes the construction of piers, docks, (including jet ski ramps) pilings, and boatlifts in man-made lagoons provided it meets all of the requirements of this general permit.   Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.19 for information on all of the requirements of the general permit. 

 

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: January 9, 2014