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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

culvertA Culvert is a device, usually a pipe or arched tunnel, used to channel water underneath a road, railway, or other type of embankment. Culverts can be made of many different materials, including concrete, corrugated steel, plastic, and PVC.

Culvert construction, repair and/or reconstruction may result in disturbances to “special areas” regulated by the Department and may require multiple permits from the Division of Land Use Regulation prior to site preparation or construction. The presence or absence of special areas can be rudimentarily determined using the Department’s online mapping service, NJ-GeoWeb.  Special areas within your project site may also affect the type of authorization required.  An area containing sensitive and endangered plant species for example, may be irreparably damaged by such activities. Therefore, it is important to closely examine a proposed project relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted. 

The above tabs provide additional information on permit requirements relating to culvert project. For impacts to streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, flood plains, flood ways, riparian zones, please see the "Flood Hazard" tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please see the "Coastal" tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, see the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab.  Information on Tidelands can be found by selecting the "Tidelands" tab.

The construction of a culvert within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit. Three FWW General Permits (GPs) are available for this activity, a GP1, a GP10A, and a GP10B. To be eligible for a GP1, the culvert must be replaced in-kind with no new permanent disturbances to freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters. To be eligible for a GP10A or a GP10B, the total area of freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters disturbed cannot exceed one quarter acre.

General Permit 1 -- Maintenance and repair of existing features is for the in-kind replacement of an existing culvert. Activities under a GP1 shall not expand, widen, or deepen the previously authorized feature. Please click on the link above for more information.

General Permit 10A -- Very minor road crossings is for culverts that comply with one of the two scenarios listed below:

  1. The "Short Crossing Scenario" requires that the disturbance of freshwater wetlands and/or State open waters is no longer than 100 feet for each crossing and the total cumulative disturbance of freshwater wetlands, transition area, and State open waters is one quarter acre or less.
  2. The "Long Crossing Scenario" has no crossing length requirement, but instead requires that the total cumulative disturbance of freshwater wetlands, transition area, and State open waters is one eighth acre or less.

General Permit 10B -- Minor road crossings is for culverts that exceed the GP10A requirements, but which have less than one quarter acre of disturbance to freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters.

If the culvert cannot comply with the criteria for a GP1, a GP10A, or a GP10B, 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.

The only potential qualifying Permit by Rule (PBR) associated with culverts is found at N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)4, repair of a lawfully existing structure.  However, there are three potential qualifying general permits for culverts. 

  • General Permit No. 2C allows for the crossing of water for agricultural purposes. 
  • General Permit No. 4 allows for the maintenance of a lawfully existing stormwater management structure by a public entity. 
  • General Permit No. 9 allows for the crossing of water that drains less than 50 acres.  All other culverts must apply for a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit. 

Please note the Department discourages the use of culverts that eliminate the stream bottom and therefore encourages three-sided culverts.

Generally, culvert construction, repair and/or reconstruction within coastal areas generally requires a permit.  The proposed construction of a new culvert or improvements to an existing culvert is typically undertaken in conjunction with a larger project such as a public/private road project or a residential/commercial development.  In these instances, the culvert project is reviewed in the context of the larger project.

The “Jurisdiction” tab of the "Coastal Areas" webpage can help you determine which areas of your site may be regulated.  The availability of certain exemptions or permits for a project depends on where your project is proposed.
There are no Permits-by-rule, General Permits-by-Certification, or General Permits specific to culvert work. Therefore, if the project does not qualify for the below exemptions, a CAFRA, Coastal Wetlands and/or Waterfront Development Individual Permit may be required.

Potentially applicable Exemptions: 

Please see applicable rule for complete requirements.

  • Within the CAFRA zone, culvert maintenance, repair, or reconstruction may qualify for an exemption provided the activity is not considered “public development.”  If located other than a beach or dune, “public development” is not the maintenance, repair, or replacement of an existing and functioning railroad or related structure per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.2(b)2iv.
  • Within the CAFRA zone, culvert maintenance, repair, or replacement may qualify for the exemption provided the activity:
    • Is undertaken by a government entity;
    • Located within the existing public right-of-way; and
    • Involves either the routine reconstruction, substantially similar functional replacement, or the maintenance or repair of public highways per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.2(c)6.

Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center at (609) 777-0454 should you require 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.

For culverts that are proposed in a tidelands area, a tidelands license may be required if the activities are taking place at or below the mean high water line of a tidal waterway and/or a tidelands grant may be required 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: January 4, 2016