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

Freshwater Wetlands

  • Overview
  • Wetland Delineations
  • General Permits
  • Individual Permits
  • Transition Area Waivers

Swamp PinkPreviously misunderstood as wastelands, wetlands are now being recognized for their vital ecological and socioeconomic contributions. Wetlands contribute to the social, economic, and environmental health of our nation in many ways:

  • Wetlands protect drinking water by filtering out chemicals, pollutants, and sediments that would otherwise clog and contaminate our waters.
  • Wetlands soak up runoff from heavy rains and snow melts, providing natural flood control. Wetlands release stored flood waters to streams during droughts.
  • Wetlands provide critical habitats for a major portion of the State's fish and wildlife, including endangered, commercial and recreational species.
  • Wetlands provide high quality open space for recreation and tourism.

Many of these values were not widely appreciated until the 1970s and 1980s. By then, more than half of the nation's wetlands were destroyed.

Freshwater Wetland Delineations:

  • Overview
  • Delineating Freshwater Wetlands
  • LOI Types
  • Application Guidance
  • Rules
  • FAQ

Wetlands are commonly referred to as swamps, marshes, or bogs, however many wetlands in New Jersey do not fit this familiar description. To determine what is and is not a wetland in New Jersey, the Department has adopted and requires that the 1989 Federal Manual for Identifying and Delineating Jurisdictional Wetlands be used for determining the presence and extent of freshwater wetlands.

The 1989 Federal manual uses a three parameter approach and requires that a wetland include; hydric soils, wetland hydrology and hydrophytic vegetation. For detailed information, and for exceptions to this approach, please download and carefully review the 1989 Federal Manual.

A “Letter of Interpretation” or “LOI” means a document “...issued by the Department under N.J.A.C. 7:7A-3, indicating the presence or absence of wetlands, State open waters, or transition areas; verifying or delineating the boundaries of freshwater wetlands, State open waters, and/or transition areas; or assigning a wetland a resource value classification.”

There are five types of LOI's obtainable from the Department;

  • Presence/Absence
  • Presence/Absence - "Footprint" of Disturbance
  • Delineation
  • Verification
  • Verification - Partial

Details on each of these LOI's can be obtained in the "LOI Types" tab

A letter of interpretation does not grant approval to conduct any regulated activities. The sole function of a letter of interpretation is to provide or confirm information about the presence or absence, boundaries, and/or resource value classification of freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters.

A municipality or county may require an applicant to obtain an LOI as a condition of application completeness or as a condition of approval for planning approvals, demonstrating compliance with ordinances, or for other purposes.

As was discussed in the overview, in the State of NJ, the 1989 Federal manual is utilized for the purpose of delineating freshwater wetlands. Anyone who wishes to submit an application for an LOI should be knowledgeable in the use of the manual, and have the proper education, training and experience in hydric soils, wetland hydrology, and wetland vegetation.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) utilizes the 1987 Corps Wetland Delineation Manual for delineating wetlands in areas under its jurisdiction.  Recently, the Corps has published several Regional Supplements to the 1987 Federal manual.  Three Regional Supplements include New Jersey in their geographical boundary:  Atlantic & Gulf Coastal Plain, Eastern Mountains & Piedmont and Northcentral and Northeast.  Since New Jersey does not utilize the 1987 Manual for delineating wetlands, the subsequent Regional Supplements cannot be utilized to delineate wetlands.  However, there are various resources contained within the Regional Supplements that can be used to substantiate a wetland determination. 

  • The USDA, NRCS Field Indicators of Hydric Soils v7.0 is an important tool in determining the presence of hydric soils and can be used in New Jersey along with any subsequent amendments. 
  • The National Wetland Plant List, hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), is the approved listing for classifying wetland plants in NJ. Please be advised that if you use the regional lists, New Jersey is split between 3 of the 10 regions, so you have to be careful to note which region your site is located within.  In New Jersey, the most up-to-date version of the Plant List should be used.
  • Wetland Hydrologic indicators are listed in the 1989 Federal manual and you should use the manual as the default guide for determining wetland hydrology on a site.  There are various resources that are described in more detail in the “Difficult Wetland Situation” section of the Regional Supplements that can assist in substantiating wetland hydrology.  However, the hydrology indicators themselves provide useful information but are effectively not enforceable under the rules in New Jersey.

In addition to the Federal Manual, there are other resources available to aid in determining the presence and extent of Freshwater Wetlands.

  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Web Soil Survey provides an online method of obtaining detailed information about soils located on a site.
  • The Department has developed a GIS mapping tool, Geoweb, which includes a “Landscape/Natural Heritage” layer (map). This layer divides the landscape into various classifications, including wetlands, which may be useful in providing some guidance. Please be advised that these landscape maps are not ground verified and cannot be considered as a definitive determination of the presence of Freshwater Wetlands. Only a wetlands verification/delineation can accurately determine and verify the presence and extent of freshwater wetlands on a site.

LOI Types

  • Presence/Absence
  • Footprint of Disturbance
  • Delineation
  • Verification
  • Partial Verification

A "Presence/Absence" LOI identifies whether any freshwater wetlands, State open waters or transition areas exist on a site, or on a portion of a site (See the Footprint of Disturbance tab) one acre or less. A presence/absence LOI also provides the resource value classification for any wetlands on the site.

A presence/absence LOI does not identify the boundaries or location of any freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters found within a site or portion thereof. To obtain an LOI indicating the location or the boundaries of freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters, an applicant must apply for a Line Delineation LOI (See the Delineation tab) for sites of up to an acre, or a line verification LOI (See the Verification tab) for sites over an acre.

The Department can issue a presence/absence LOI for any site, regardless of its size. Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-3.2 "Presence/absence LOI" for the relevant section of the rules

Application requirements for a LOI can be found in the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab of the "Forms, Checklists and Other Documents" webpage.

A "Footprint of Disturbance" (FOD) LOI identifies whether any freshwater wetlands or State open waters exist within a defined "footprint" on a subject site or whether a transition area from an adjacent wetland is within the footprint, with the following restrictions:

  • The footprint area must be no larger than one acre.
  • The Department will issue a FOD for more than one portion of a site, provided that:
    • Each portion is no larger than one acre;
    • The applicant submits a separate fee for each portion; and
    • No more than three presence/absence LOIs shall be issued for a single site under this subsection.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-3.2 Presence/absence LOI for the relevant section of the rules.

Application requirements for a LOI can be found in the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab of the "Forms, Checklists and Other Documents" webpage.

A "Line Delineation" LOI identifies the boundaries of any freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters on a site or a municipal tax lot that is one acre or smaller, and identifies the resource value classification of any freshwater wetlands on the site. For a line delineation LOI, the applicant need not submit a delineation. Rather, the Department will inspect the site and delineate the boundary lines of any freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters. You cannot get a Line Delineation LOI for a portion of a site, unless the portion is an entire municipal tax lot.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-3.3 Line delineation LOI for the relevant section of the rules.

Application requirements for a LOI can be found in the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab of the "Forms, Checklists and Other Documents" webpage.

A "Line Verification" LOI identifies the boundaries of any freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters on a site, regardless of its size, or a municipal tax lot no larger then the site, and the resource value classification of any freshwater wetlands. For a line verification LOI, the applicant must submit a proposed delineation of wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters, which the Department will confirm or modify.

Important Guidance: When you consider Department regulated features such as wetlands on a property, it is important to think of it as an area and not a boundary. All types of Letters of Interpretation (LOI) except a Presence or Absence determination, refer to wetlands and/or wetland lines, but when a line is noted, it really refers to the edge of an area of wetlands. On a survey, this area would be depicted as a polygon (a multisided shape) the edges of which would either be a property boundary, or a wetlands line delineated and verified by the Department. A wetland does not stop at the property boundary, but rather it is the limit of the determination for that particular site.

If you are submitting a LOI Line Verification to the Department, you must take into consideration that the wetlands are an area, not a line, and prepare your site plans accordingly. Wetland lines that do not meet the property boundary at some point will be unacceptable and will require revision. A simple self test is if you can "connect the dots" with the wetlands line/field points and the property boundary to form a polygon. If the answer is yes, it is likely that the line will not be rejected for being "too short". Remember that every wetlands line that does not connect to itself to form a polygon within the site, must connect to a property boundary.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-3.4 Line verification LOI for the relevant section of the rules.

Application requirements for a LOI can be found in the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab of the "Forms, Checklists and Other Documents" webpage.

The Department can issue a line verification LOI for a portion of a site, if all of the following criteria are met:

  • The site is publicly owned;
  • The site is larger than 10 acres;
  • The portion that is to be verified is no larger than 10 percent of the overall site; and
  • The portion is clearly marked on the plan and on the ground.

This type of LOI is rare. It is most often used by a public entity to determine the Departments jurisdiction with regards to Freshwater Wetlands, on a portion of a much larger site for which some project plans are being prepared.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-3.4 Line verification LOI for the relevant section of the rules.

Application requirements for a LOI can be found in the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab of the "Forms, Checklists and Other Documents" webpage.

Important Guidance for Agents: When you consider Department regulated features such as wetlands on a property, it is important to think of it as an area and not a boundary.

All types of Letters of Interpretation (LOI) except a Presence or Absence determination, refer to wetlands and/or wetland lines, but when a line is noted, it really refers to the edge of an area of wetlands. An area as displayed on a map appears as a polygon, a multisided shape, the edges of which will either be the property boundary, or a wetlands line delineated or verified by the Department.

If you are submitting a LOI to the Department for a "Line Verification", you must take into consideration that the wetlands are an area, not a line, and prepare your site plans accordingly. Wetland lines that do not meet the property boundary at some point will be unacceptable and will require revision. A simple self test is "Can I "connect the dots" with my wetlands line/field points and the property boundary to form a polygon?" If the answer is yes, it is likely that the line will not be rejected for being "too short".

Application requirements for a LOI can be found in the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab of the "Forms, Checklists and Other Documents" webpage. Please follow carefully the requirements as outlined on this checklist to insure that you have all of the required information necessary to complete and process your application.

The following regulations apply to all Letters of Interpretation.

N.J.A.C 7:7A - Index to the entire Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules.

N.J.A.C. 7:7A-3 for regulations that apply to all Letters of Interpretation.

Please Note: The Department has made every effort to ensure that the text of this regulation is identical to the official, legally effective version set forth in the New Jersey Register. However, should there be any discrepancies between the text on this web site and the official version of the rule, the official version will govern. For more information on obtaining official versions of the rules, How To Get a Paper Copy of Department Rules

There are no FAQ's at the present time. If you have a question, please use the Divisions Contact Page to get in touch with us.

General Permits provide a means to perform a variety of activities within a regulated Freshwater Wetlands, Freshwater Wetlands Transition Area and/or State open water, provided that the various restrictions are met for that type of General Permit requested. There are also requirements and restrictions for all general permits, all of which must be considered prior to applying for a permit. Should these requirements not be met, an application for a general permit may be denied.

Individual Permits

  • Overview
  • Application Guidance
  • Rules
  • FAQ

An individual permit review is for activities having substantial wetlands impacts, and seeks to eliminate and/or reduce impacts through an alternatives analysis. “Substantial impacts” means a regulated wetland disturbance does not fall into one of the standard general permit or transition area waiver categories (for “minimal” disturbance activities). If wetland disturbance can not be eliminated, or reduced to fit within a general permit category, the alternatives analysis is conducted to see if there are ways to achieve a project with a lesser wetland disturbance. Activities passing the alternatives analysis (having no viable alternatives) are then issued an individual permit, and that permit will contain conditions for mitigation measures to restore wetland functions that would be lost by conducting a permitted wetland project.

The individual permit process can be complicated. The administrative and ownership history of a proposed project site may play a large role in how the review is conducted. It is important that an applicant have a general understanding of the individual permit rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7-7, or Subchapter 7 of the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act rules). Due to costs and complexity, it is recommended that projects potentially falling into this category of freshwater wetland permitting be discussed with Land Use staff prior to submitting the actual application.

 At N.J.A.C. 7:7A-7.2 you will find the standards requirements that apply to all individual permit authorizations.

This page is for informational purposes only. This page is for informational purposes only. Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-7.1 through 7.5 and N.J.A.C. 7:7A-13.1, Standard conditions that apply to all permits for more information.

 GETTING AN IP: If you believe that your project will require a IP and you do not know how to apply for one, we suggest that you visit "The Permit Process" section of this website for more information.  It will give you a general overview on the ins and outs of permitting, and will direct you to the forms necessary to apply.

Any application submitted must follow the procedures and information requirements listed in the "Application Contents and Procedures" section of the freshwater wetlands rules [Link to application contents section].

Note: The Department has, for your convenience, developed an Application Checklist for IP's. Please follow carefully the requirements as outlined on this checklist to insure that you have all of the required information necessary to complete and process your application.

IP related rules:

7:7A-7 Individual Freshwater Wetlands and Open Water Fill Permits

7:7A-13.1 Standard conditions that apply to all permits

7:7A - Index to the entire rule.

Please Note: The Department has made every effort to ensure that the text of this regulation is identical to the official, legally effective version set forth in the New Jersey Register. However, should there be any discrepancies between the text on this web site and the official version of the rule, the official version will govern. For more information on obtaining official versions of the rules, How To Get a Paper Copy of Department Rules

Frequently Asked Questions

If you do not see an answer to your question below, please use the Land Use Contact form on this website. We will make every attempt to answer your question as promptly as possible.

Q.When do I need to obtain a Freshwater Wetland Individual Permit?

A. When the proposed activity would fill/disturb more than the maximum limit allowed under a general permit within freshwater wetlands, wetland transition areas and/or State open waters.

Q. Do Freshwater Individual permits require mitigation?

A. Yes, All Individual Permits require mitigation. [Link to N.J.A.C. 7:7A-15.1 et seq.]

Transition Area Waivers

  • Overview
  • Averaging Plan
  • Special Activity Waiver
  • All other Waivers

A “Transition Area Waiver” is an approval issued by the Department to conduct certain regulated activities in a transition area adjacent to intermediate or exceptional resource value wetlands. For a list of regulated activities refer to N.J.A.C.7:7-2.6. There are six types of Transition Area Waivers you can obtain from the Department.

  • An Averaging Plan transition Area Waiver 
  • A Special Activity Transition Area Waiver
  • A Matrix type Width Reduction Transition Area Waiver
  • A Hardship Transition Area Waiver
  • An Individual Permit Transition Area Waiver
  • An Access Transition Area Waiver

Details on each of these Transition Area Waivers can be found in the following tabs.

The Department will issue any one of these transition area waivers for an activity only if the activity will not result in a substantial impact on the adjacent freshwater wetlands and if the applicant has made every effort to minimize impacts to freshwater wetlands and transition areas on site.

An applicant whose application does not meet the requirements for any of the transition area waivers listed above may obtain a transition area waiver through scientifically documenting that a proposed activity will have no substantial impact on the adjacent wetlands. See N.J.A.C.7:7A-6.1(d) relevant section of the rules for more information.

All transition area waivers except the redevelopment transition area waiver, will require the applicant to deed restrict the entire modified transition area and freshwater wetlands. This deed restriction must be recorded with the county clerk’s office after obtaining approval from the Department.  For more information on deed restriction see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-2.12 of the rules.

An Averaging Plan transition area waiver is a waiver that involves the modification of the overall shape of a transition area without reducing its total square footage. For example, if a project involves the construction of a house on a small lot and encroachment onto transition areas is required to expand the back yard, the applicant can apply for a transition area waiver averaging plan to expand the back yard by reducing the area of the buffer and compensating the area of reduction by expanding the buffer area in another location on site by the same square footage. For a diagram of an example transition area averaging plan refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6, Appendix A.

A transition area averaging plan waiver are given for activities adjacent to both intermediate and exceptional resource value wetlands provided the modified transition area continues to serve the purposes of a transition area as described in N.J.A.C. 7:7A-2.5. A modified transition area will be presumed to not continue to serve the purposes of a transition area if the slope of the transition area to be modified is greater than 25 percent, if a septic system or an outfall structure discharging untreated stormwater is proposed within the transition area to be modified or an intervening structure exists between the transition area and the wetland. 

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6.2(c) transition area waiver adjacent to an intermediate resource value wetlands and N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6.2(d) transition area waiver adjacent to an exceptional resource value wetland for the relevant section of the rules for more information.

Application requirements for an Averaging Plan can be found in the "Freshwater Wetlands Transition Area" tab of the "Forms, Checklists and Other Documents" webpage.

Special Activity Waivers

  • Stormwater
  • Linear Development
  • Redevelopment
  • Individual Permit

Content 1

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6.3 for more information.

Content 2

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6.3 for more information.

The Department will issue a "Special Activity Transition Area Waiver for Redevelopment" of a significantly disturbed area if the following conditions are met:

  1. The area of proposed activity is significantly disturbed so that it is not functioning as a transition area at the time of application,
  2. The disturbance was legally existing in the transition area prior to July 1, 1989, or was previously permitted under this chapter,
  3. No additional disturbance is proposed that would expand the disturbed area,
  4. Any remaining disturbed portion of the transition area, where practicable, is planted with indigenous plants that are beneficial to the wetland, and the transition area is protected from future development by a conservation restriction or easement that meets the requirements at N.J.A.C. 7:7A-2.12.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6.3 for more information.

The Department can issue a "Special Activity Transition Area Waiver" for an activity if the applicant demonstrates that, if the activity were instead proposed in a freshwater wetland, it would meet the standards for a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit" at N.J.A.C. 7:7A-7.2 and 7.4, and performs mitigation in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:7A-15.26.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6.3 for more information.

A "Matrix Type Width Reduction Transition Area Waiver", or "transition area matrix waiver," are obtainable for a project proposed in a transition area adjacent to an exceptional or intermediate resource value wetland. The Department shall determine the width of a transition area using the matrix consisting of the slope, the dominant vegetational community and the development intensity. Please see the relevant section of the rules for more information. See also "Table B" and "Table C"

A "Hardship Transition Area Waiver" allows for reasonable use if from unique circumstances peculiar to the site no other permit or waiver is available. The amount of transition area reduction authorized under a hardship transition area waiver is the minimum amount necessary to construct one single family home and any necessary appurtenances, such as a driveway or septic system. However, the transition area cannot be reduced under this section to less than 75 feet for a transition area adjacent to exceptional resource value wetlands, or 25 feet for a transition area adjacent to intermediate resource value wetlands. Please see the relevant section of the rules for more information.

An "Access Transition Area Waiver" is not a separate transition area waiver, rather it is included in a general permit, individual permit, and/or mitigation proposal approval to allow access to the permitted regulated activity through a transition area. Please see the relevant section of the rules for more information.

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, 1996-2014
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402
Last Updated: February 25, 2014