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

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Boat Lifts & Boat Ramps

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

Boat Lifts & Boat Ramps, are access points for the personal watercraft of residents to New Jersey's valuable recreation opportunities on our lakes, ponds, resevoirs, rivers, and bays. Although being areas of recreational opportunities, the areas where boat ramps and lifts are placed at the interface of land and water, are often located in (special areas) [\\dep-tcshared\shared\lum\LUR\WebDev\specialareas.html] of the State that are regulated by the Department.

Activities, including Boat Lifts & Boat Ramps, that may disturb special areas of the State regulated by the Department, may require an approval from the Division prior to construction. An area containing sensitive aquatic 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.

Boat Lifts & Boat Ramps 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 information on Land Use permit requirements for bank stabilization 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.

The construction of a boat ramp or lift within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit. Two FWW General Permits (GP) are available for this activity, a GP1 and a GP19.

General Permit 1 - Maintenance and repair of existing features - May be obtained if repairs are being made to an exsiting boat ramp or lift, or install of a boat ramp, lift, or any access point to the open water is being constructed within the landward side of a man-made bulkhead and not increasing distrubances to freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open waters.

General Permit - 19 Docks and Piers - Can be obtained for activities in freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open water if the following;

  1. The proposed boat ramp is for use by the public. Private boat ramps are not covered by this general permit.
  2. The activites proposed shall disturb no more than one tenth of an acre of frehswater wetlands, transition area, or State open waters.

If the project for boat ramp or lift cannot comply with the criteria for a GP-1 or a GP19, the applicant 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 the links above.

Boat lifts and ramps are regulated by the CZM Rules.  For sites located outside of the jurisdiction of the CZM Rules, there is a potential Permit by Rule (PBR), N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(a)6.  Please note, the boat launching ramps must be constructed at grade.  If the a project does not meet the PBR listed and is not subject to the CZM Rules, then the boat lift and ramp can only be constructed in a portion of a manmade impoundment, such as a pond or lake.

The construction of boat or jet ski lift(s) and/or boat ramps within the coastal area generally requires a permit.  The construction and/or reconstruction of boat lifts, jet ski lifts, and boat ramps below the mean high water line may qualify for a coastal exemption from permitting requirements (Zane Exemption), a permit-by-rule, or a general permit.  If the project does not meet the requirements for a coastal exemption, a permit-by-rule, or a general permit, the project will generally require a Waterfront Development, CAFRA, and/or Coastal Wetlands Individual permit.

Please refer to the “Jurisdiction” section of the "Coastal Permitting" section of the website 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 exemptions and permits for a project depends on where your project is proposed.

This exemption may apply to your project –

  • The repair, replacement, renovation, or reconstruction of an existing boat lift, jet ski lift, boat ramp, floating dock, mooring raft or similar seasonal improvement or structure located below the mean high water line in the same location and size as measured pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.3(d)6i and ii of the pre-existing structure legally existing prior to January 1, 1981 and that appears on the applicable 1977/1978 Tidelands map or the 1971/1972 promulgated Coastal Wetlands map.  This exemption is referred to as a Zane Exemption.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.3(d)6 and 7 for more information.

These coastal permits-by-rule may apply to your project--

  • Permit-by-Rule 5 authorizes the construction of the landward portion of non-residential boat ramps above the mean high water line provided the portion of the boat ramp located waterward of the mean high water line is authorized by a Waterfront Development permit and the other conditions of this permit-by-rule are met. The disturbance of wetlands for this activity may require a separate Coastal Wetlands or Freshwater Wetlands permit.   Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.2(a)5 for more information.
  • Permit-by-rule 10 authorizes the construction of the landward portion of a residential boat ramp above the mean high water line provided the portion of the boat ramp located waterward of the mean high water line is authorized by a Waterfront Development permit and the other conditions of this permit-by-rule are met.  Please be advised, the construction of a boat ramp within an area of wetlands cannot be authorized by this permit-by-rule.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:2(a)10 for more information.

This coastal general permit may apply to your project--

  • Coastal General Permit 19 authorizes the construction of boat lifts and jet ski lifts for recreational use in manmade lagoons at single family home and duplex properties.  For further information regarding the requirements of this general permit, please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.19

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.  

The construction of a boat lift and/or a boat ramp 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 and/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. 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.

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.

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.


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Last Updated: February 9, 2015