New Jersey Takes Emergency Action To Speed Rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy

by Ballard Spahr LLP
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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) took emergency action to reduce approval backlogs and to make it easier for those seeking to rebuild in wake of Hurricane Sandy to obtain regulatory approvals by amending the Coastal Permit Program rules and the Coastal Zone Management rules.

The changes should help expedite the rebuilding of coastal communities and industries by cutting red tape for:

  • Rebuilding residential and commercial developments
  • Renovating or reconstructing existing marinas and constructing new marinas
  • Restoring shellfish aquaculture habitat
  • Maintaining engineered beaches and dunes and establishing living shorelines
  • Facilitating removal of sand and other materials in coastal waterways and marinas

For example, the NJDEP has created or modified permits-by-rule to allow certain rebuilding activities to proceed without the need for a separate permit or authorization. This will enable New Jerseyans to commence needed work simply by providing notice and following modest regulatory guidelines.

Significantly, NJDEP has established a permit-by-rule to enable reconstruction of previously existing residential and commercial structures. Without the regulatory relief, redevelopment of affected properties within the upland waterfront development area required a general permit or an individual permit. The regulatory changes also added a permit-by-rule to expand or relocate landward or laterally the footprint of a legally constructed residential or commercial development.

NJDEP also has established new rules designed to facilitate construction and reconstruction of new and existing marinas. For example, NJDEP added a permit-by-rule for the reconfiguration of a legally existing dock, wharf, or pier at a legally existing marina that is not located within shellfish habitat, wetlands, or submerged vegetation habitat. Marina redevelopment in the identified sensitive areas requires NJDEP review.

The new rules further seek to ease requirements for municipalities to establish and maintain dune systems that enhance storm protection. For example, the emergency rules allow for maintenance of engineered beaches and dunes to the design template, for the removal of accumulated sand beneath a boardwalk, and for placement of temporary sand fencing during the winter. In addition, the changes created a new permit-by-rule for the placement of sand fencing to create or sustain a dune, and amended existing rules to facilitate the establishment of living shorelines.

The emergency rules expire on June 15, 2013, but NJDEP has proposed making them permanent through a separate readoption of the regulatory revisions. The public comment period for the concurrent proposal runs until June 5, 2013, after which the revisions are expected to become final.

Attorneys in Ballard Spahr’s Environment and Natural Resources Group and Real Estate Department will continue to monitor developments concerning rule changes affecting coastal areas and properties damaged by Hurricane Sandy. For more information, please contact Harry Weiss at 215.864.8129 or weiss@ballardspahr.com, Barbara A. Casey at 856.761.3430 or caseyb@ballardspahr.com, or Ronald M. Varnum at 215.864.8416 or varnumr@ballardspahr.com.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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