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

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Telecommunication Towers

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

Telecommunication towers provide vital links for radio, television, telephone and cellular phone communication.  Telecommunication tower construction and/or reconstruction may result in impacts to “special areas” that are regulated by the Department.  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.  Lastly, construction activities associated with telecommunication towers may require multiple approvals from the Division, depending on the special areas impacted by the project. 

The above tabs provide additional information on permit requirements relating telecommunication tower 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.

Constructing a telecommunications tower within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit.

A FWW General Permit 21 -- Above ground utility lines is available for this activity. To be eligible for a GP21, the temporary disturbance during construction shall be no more than 60 feet wide, and the permanent disturbance shall be no more than a 1/2 acre and no wider than 20 feet.

If the tower will be located in transition areas only, the project may be eligible for a (Transition Area Special Activity Waiver (SAW) for Linear Development) [link to N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6.3]. In order to qualify, the applicant would first have to verify that the project qualifies as a (linear development) [link to definition of linear development]. The applicant would then have to demonstrate that there is no other feasible location for the tower that would minimize impacts to the transition area.

If the project cannot comply with the criteria listed above, the applicant would need to apply for an (Individual Permit (IP)) [link to N.J.A.C. 7:7A-7.1]. An IP application would need to include a description as to why the project cannot be minimized to satisfy the criteria described in the links above.

The construction of a telecommunications tower in a regulated area is a regulated activity under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:13).  If the project is also regulated pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7, then no separate flood hazard area 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.

Two permits-by-rule may apply to this activity. In addition to the specific requirements in each permit, activities under either permit-by-rule must also comply with N.J.A.C. 7:13-6.7.

Permit-by-rule 34 at N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.34 authorizes the placement of one or more utility open-frame towers to provide cellphone service or support a utility line. These towers and any associated equipment may not be located within a floodway and must be set back at least 25 feet from any top of bank, unless the project is adjacent to an existing bulkhead, retaining wall, or revetment along a tidal water or impounded fluvial water. Footings much be constructed primarily at or below grade so that the top of the footing is no more than one foot aboveground. Wires and cables supported by the towers must be located at least one foot above the flood hazard area design flood elevation to ensure safety and integrity during a flood. Trees may not be cleared, cut, and/or removed under this permit.

Permit-by-rule 35 at N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.35 authorizes the placement of one or more utility monopole towers. The same requirements apply to permit-by-rule 35 that apply to permit-by-rule 34.

Currently, there are no flood hazard area general permits-by-certification or general permits available for permitting the construction of telecommunications towers.  Should the proposed project not qualify for a permit-by-rule, it may be authorized under a flood hazard area individual permit pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:13-10, 11, and 12.

Telecommunication tower construction within coastal areas generally requires a permit.  The project may qualify for the below described exemption or 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. 7:7-2.2(b)3ii, the construction of telecommunication towers, such as cellular telephone towers, within CAFRA jurisdiction does not require a permit if the tower is located more than 150’ from the mean high water line of any tidal waters or the landward limit of a beach or dune, whichever is most landward.  Please see the aforementioned rule for complete requirements.

Potentially applicable General Permit (GP):

GP 21- authorizes construction of telecommunication towers

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 construction of telecommunication towers 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 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.

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: June 20, 2016