NJ DEP, Department of Environmental Protection, wants to oversee public access to public trust lands, including the beach, ocean and tidal waters.
A proposed law would require NJ DEP to review all permit applications to assess the amount of public access towns provide as a condition for receiving those permits. If DEP doesn’t approve, it could withhold beach maintenance permits to Downbeach towns like Margate, Ventnor and Longport.
Ventnor, Longport and Margate all feel the same way. They’re not happy about this state over-reach.
Does the DEP know how to manage a beach? Do they have the know-how to make appropriate beach rules and regs? Is the State of NJ exercising over-reach?
State pushing for a one-size-fits-all, beach management solution. Just like the still-controversial, dune project.
The DEP wants municipalities to submit a Public Access Plan. This would explain what towns like Margate Ventnor & Longport are doing to ensure public access to the shoreline. The DEP determines if there’s enough access. If not, NJ DEP could mandate additional access points, parking and public restrooms.
DEP would have extreme authority over Jersey Shore towns. Could withhold permits and hold every shore town hostage.
Case in point: Longport had to cancel a Beach Clean-Up planned for Saturday, April 13. Why? The NJ DEP didn’t OK a permit for permanent beach maintenance in Longport. Huh?
Public Trust Doctrine Ensures AccessThe public’s right to access tidal waters and their shorelines, embodied in the Public Trust Doctrine, has existed prior to the inception of the State of New Jersey and continues to this day. The Public Trust Doctrine is the principle that certain resources, in this case tidal waters and shorelines, are preserved for public use, and that the government is required to maintain them for the public’s reasonable use.
NJ State wants public access that includes boat ramps, fishing piers, public restrooms and public parking, The DEP would then decide if the submitted public access plan developed by each town, is sufficient before any permits or funding are issued.
- Mandated public access to the beach via street ends.
- Ventnor allows beach block parking. Margate and Longport do not, citing safety concerns.
- NJ coastal towns are required to prove they’re protecting marine habitat and endangered species.
- Longport is reporting that NJ State wants them to set aside beach space for piping plovers and other endangered species.
NJ towns must submit so-called ‘access plans’. The approval process is not easy.
The Public Trust Doctrine: oceans, seas, bays and rivers are common to all. Access must be unfettered.
Interesting to note: NJ Senator Chris Brown and NJ Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato all supported and voted for the legislation. All three elected leaders were also notably absent in the recent, Downbeach dune battle.
New Jersey’s Public Access Regulations: http://www.nj.gov/dep/cmp/access/index.htm