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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.

There are several specific permits that authorize certain regulated activities involving bridges and culverts. In addition to the permit-specific requirements for each activity, all activities authorized under a permit-by-rule, general permit-by-certification, or general permit must meet the requirements of N.J.A.C. 7:13-6.7. All activities authorized under any permit must comply with the conditions that apply to all permits at N.J.A.C. 7:13-22.2.

One permit-by-rule may apple to bridge activities. Permit-by-rule 42 at N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.42 authorizes the reconstruction of all or part of a lawfully existing bridge superstructure. Replacement of any portion of the superstructure that is located below the flood hazard area design flood elevation must be “in-kind” to prevent the activity from increasing flooding. Riparian zone vegetation that may only be disturbed within 20 feet of the structure where necessary to facilitate its construction.

There are two potential qualifying general permits-by-certification  for bridges and culverts.  General permit-by-certification 2 at N.J.A.C. 7:13-8.2 authorizes the construction of a roadway across a regulated water for agricultural purposes, where the activities are approved and supervised by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and/or the local Soil Conservation District.  Several other requirements apply to ensure disturbance is minimized and prevent the activity from exacerbating flooding.

General permit-by-certification 10 (N.J.A.C. 7:13-8.10) authorizes the in-kind replacement of a culvert. The culvert being replaced must not have been removed more than one year prior to the placement. An engineering certification confirming technical requirements are met must be submitted with the application. Several other requirements apply to minimize disturbance to vegetation and aquatic life and ensure the safety of the replacement culvert.

General permit 3 authorizes scour protection activities at existing bridges or culverts. See the “Scour Protection” section of “Common Project Types” for more information.

General permit 9 (N.J.A.C. 7:13-9.9) allows for the construction or reconstruction of a bridge or culvert over a regulated water that drains less than 50 acres, while general permit 10 (N.J.A.C. 7:13-9.10) allows for the construction or reconstruction of a bridge or culvert crossing a regulated water that drains greater than 50 acres.  Similar requirements apply to both general permits to minimize alterations to the natural channel, minimizew hard armoring of banks, and minimize impacts to vegetation and aquatic life. If the project, in combination with all proposed activities, constitutes a major development as defined by the Stormwater Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:8-1.2, all applicable requirements of those rules must be met.

All other bridges must apply for a flood hazard area individual permit in accordance with 7:13-10, 11 and 12. N.J.A.C. 7:13-11.2 (g) and (h) set forth the riparian zone disturbance standards for bridges and culverts associated with roads and railroads, while N.J.A.C. 7:13-12.7 sets forth specific design and construction standards for bridges and culverts.

If the proposed project is regulated pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7, then no separate flood hazard area approval is required.  In these instances, the applicant need only submit a report and plans demonstrating compliance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules as part of the coastal permit application.

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: June 20, 2016