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

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

Bulkheads are man-made vertical shore protection structures installed to withstand the forces of waves or currents. Bulkheads are common structures found along watercourses, especially in residential areas along waterways and in industrial and commercial areas with watefronts. The construction of a new bulkhead or the replacement of an existing one requires an approval from the Department.

Depending upon where in the State your property is located and what special areas your project may be impacting, different approvals for the Department may be needed. If you don't know what special areas are on your site, or if you are not sure if your property is located in a Coastal Area 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. If you know of, or have an idea of what special areas your proposed project will impact, you can click on any of the tabs above for more information.

(General Permit 1 -- Maintenance and repair of existing features) [V:\lum\LUR\WebDev\fww\fww_gp01.html] is available for the replacement of an exsiting bulkhead that is collapsing or in disrepair. If a new bulkhead is being proposed within freeshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State Open Waters an (Individual Permit) [Link] (IP) is required.

Bulkheads are regulated under the CZM Rules, any bulkhead located outside of the jurisdiction of the CZM Rules are subject to the retaining wall standards of the Flood Hazard Area Rules.  There are no PBR’s or general permits associated with retaining walls; the applicant must apply for a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit.

Bulkheads are defined in the Coastal Permit Program Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7-1.1 et seq.) as vertical shore protection structures installed to withstand the forces of waves and currents A revetment or gabion is not considered a bulkhead.  If your intended project is the construction of a revetment or gabion, please review the section on Bank Stabilization in the “List of Common Project Types” section of the website.  The construction or replacement of a bulkhead generally requires a permit.  However, there are exemptions as well as coastal general permits available for the construction and reconstruction of bulkheads. 

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 or 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 bulkheads located within Waterfront Development jurisdiction provided they legally existed prior to January 1, 1981 and appear on the applicable 1971/1972 Coastal Wetlands map or the applicable 1977/1978 Tidelands map.  A low-profile bulkhead where the top of the bulkhead is constructed at an elevation below the spring high water line must be constructed in the same location and size (length, width, and height) as the pre-existing structure.  A bulkhead which does not meet the definition of a low-profile bulkhead as specified above must be constructed in the same location and size (length and width) as the pre-existing structure.  .  This exemption is referred to as a Zane Exemption.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.3(d)6 for information on all of the requirements of this exemption.

These general permits may apply to your project --

  • Coastal General Permit 10  authorizes the construction of a bulkhead and placement of associated fill on a lot located on a substantially developed manmade lagoon.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.10 for information on all of the requirements of this general permit. 
  • Coastal General Permit 14 authorizes the replacement of a legally existing and functioning bulkhead located on either a manmade lagoon or natural waterway.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.14 for information on all of the requirements of this general permit. 
  • Coastal General Permit 18 authorizes the construction of a bulkhead and placement of associated fill at a single family or duplex lot located on a natural waterbody.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.18 for information on all of the requirements of this general permit. 

If the project does not comply with the requirements for a Zane Exemption or a coastal general permit specified above, , the project will generally require a Waterfront Development, CAFRA, and/or a wetlands permit.  Additional information regarding the Division’s coastal program can be found on the “Coastal Permitting” section of this website.  If necessary, please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center for further assistance.

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.

Both new and/or replacement bulkheads 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. 

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