Governor Chris Christie • Lt.Governor Kim Guadagno

NJ Home | Services A to Z | Departments/Agencies | FAQs  

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

DEP Home | About DEP | Index by Topic | Programs/Units | DEP Online

Division Information
HomeNews & NoticesForms & ChecklistsMaps & GuidanceLaws & RulesContact Land UseSubscribe to E-Newsletter

PermittingCommon Project TypesFreshwater WetlandsStreams & Rivers (FHA)Coastal AreasTidelandsHighlandsMitigationPermit Extension ActElectronic (E) ServicesApplication Status

Related InformationFederal AgenciesPrograms/Commissions

Stream Cleaning

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

Stream Cleaning is sometimes required in a waterway that has become clogged with natural debris such as fallen trees and shrubs, or when siltation has become a problem. (Please note that no permits are required to remove garbage by hand from a waterway.)

Activities which may disturb special areas of the State that are regulated by the Department, including stream cleaning, 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.

Stream cleaning 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 more information on whether a permit is required for the proposed stream cleaning activities, please click here.  If your proposed project is within the Passaic River Basin, click here for information.

For information on Land Use permit requirements for stream cleaning 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.

Stream Cleaning is normally considered a regulated activity within State open waters and/or Freshwater Wetlands. Depending on the scope of the project however, simple hand removal of debris within a stream such as snags and fallen trees, garbage, etc. using hand tools does not require a Freshwater Wetlands permit. If you are considering this option, please be aware that disturbance of the stream channel or banks, including sediment removal may require a permit, as does removal of debris with machinery, if the activity is regulated under N.J.A.C. 7:7A-2.2.

If you plan on using machinery, cutting live wetland vegetation and/or disturbing soils such as the stream channel or banks, then it is likely that a Freshwater Wetlands permit would be required.

If the proposed stream cleaning is being performed by a municipality or other government agency, then a General Permit 26 - Minor channel or stream cleaning for local government agencies is required. Please click on the link above for more information.

If the proposed stream cleaning is NOT being performed by a municipality or other government agency, or if your activity does not conform to the requirements of a GP26, then you 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 GP 26 link above.

Performing a stream cleaning entails desilting or desnagging a channel.  It is meant for the removal of unconsolidated sediment.  It does not entail making a channel deeper or wider than it previously was, as this could result in worsened flooding on properties located downstream of the area to be cleaned. 

Cleaning a stream is a regulated activity under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules, and as such, an 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 via a CAFRA or Waterfront Development permit.  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 for a stream cleaning may be granted under a Flood Hazard Area General Permit 1 (FHAGP1).  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:13-8.3 for specific standards that must be met regarding the FHAGP1. Presented below are special notes concerning the FHAGP1.

N.J.A.C. 7:13-8.3 (FHAGP1) – In order to qualify for this general permit, the applicant must be a government entity.  Please note that if the applicant has already obtained a Freshwater Wetlands Statewide General Permit 26, then an additional Flood Hazard Area General Permit 1 is not required. 

Should the applicant not qualify for the FHAGP1, then the applicant must obtain a formal flood hazard area individual permit, subject to the technical standards of Subchapters 9, 10, and 11 of the rules.

In addition to the FHAGP1 and the flood hazard area individual permit, the applicant may also consider Permit by Rule (PBR) N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(a)5.  This PBR is not specific to desilting or desnagging operations.  However, it is useful to allow machinery to remove major obstructions from a channel.  Such obstructions include fallen trees, abandoned vehicles, furniture, and other large debris that can not be removed by hand.  Unlike the FHAGP1, the applicant here need not be a government entity.

The applicant may also consider Permit by Rule (PBR) N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(d)3.  This permit by rule allows for the removal of sediment by hand/shovels/hydraulic pumps/hoses or other similar equipment within 100 feet of a culvert, bridge or stormwater discharge pipe.  It should be noted that this work must be done under the supervision of the public entity that is responsible for maintaining the roadway and/or public property.

Stream cleaning involves the removal of sediment, debris, and garbage from a channel or stream in order to eliminate obstructions of flow or to desnag the channel or stream.  There are no coastal exemptions, coastal permits-by-rule, or coastal general permits specific to stream cleaning activities.  However, there are some available coastal general permits available for the removal of material from a waterway deposited as a result of a bulkhead failure or storm event.  Please refer to the section on dredging in the “List of Common Project Types” section of this website for more information on those general permits.  The cleaning of a tidal stream below the mean high water line will, in most instances, require a Waterfront Development Individual permit and/or a Coastal Wetlands permit if the project will result in the disturbance of mapped coastal wetlands.  Please refer to the section on Flood Hazard Areas and Freshwater Wetlands for information on the cleaning of a fluvial stream or stream cleaning activities disturbing freshwater wetlands or unmapped coastal wetlands.

Please refer to the “Jurisdiction” section of the "Coastal Permitting" section of the webpage 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 depends on where your project is proposed.  Additional information regarding the Division’s coastal program can be found on the “Coastal Permitting” section of this website.  Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center for 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.

The disposal of materials from stream cleaning activities that is proposed on land, in an area that is currently landward of the mean high water line but was, at some point flowed by the tide, may require a tidelands grant.

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.

bottom bar

Division: home | news/notices | laws/rules | forms/checklists | maps/guidance | contact
Department: njdep home | about dep | index by topic | programs/units | dep online
Statewide: njhome | citizen | business | government | services A to Z | departments | search

Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2015
Last Updated: March 3, 2015