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

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Telecommunication Towers

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

Telecommunication Towers can be found in locations throughout the State. They provide vital communication links for the now ubiquitous Cell Phone, as well as for traditional Radio and Television transmission.

Activities which may disturb special areas of the State that are regulated by the Department, including Telecommunication Towers, may require an approval from the Division prior to construction. An area containing sensitive and endangered plant 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.

Telecommunication Towers 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 Telecommunication Towers 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.

Constructing a telecommunications tower within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit.

A FWW General Permit 21 -- Above ground utility lines is available for this activity. To be eligible for a GP21, the temporary disturbance during construction shall be no more than 60 feet wide, and the permanent disturbance shall be no more than a 1/2 acre and no wider than 20 feet.

If the tower will be located in transition areas only, the project may be eligible for a (Transition Area Special Activity Waiver (SAW) for Linear Development) [link to N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6.3]. In order to qualify, the applicant would first have to verify that the project qualifies as a (linear development) [link to definition of linear development]. The applicant would then have to demonstrate that there is no other feasible location for the tower that would minimize impacts to the transition area.

If the project cannot comply with the criteria listed above, the applicant would need to apply for an (Individual Permit (IP)) [link to N.J.A.C. 7:7A-7.1]. An IP application would need to include a description as to why the project cannot be minimized to satisfy the criteria described in the links above.

The construction of a telecommunications tower in a regulated area requires authorization of some type under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules.  This depends upon whether or not the project area is regulated under the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) rules.  Specifically, if regulated under CZM, then no separate flood hazard approval is required.  In this case, the applicant need only submit a report and plans demonstrating compliance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules as part of the CZM permit application. 

Assuming there is no jurisdiction under CZM, authorization may be granted under Permits by Rule (PBRs) N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(a)2, N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)6, N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(c)2.  Please refer to the rules to see the all of the applicable conditions where each PBR would apply.  Some special notes about these PBRs are listed as follows.

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(a)2 – If the project area is located in a flood hazard area, then all construction must be situated at or below grade.  In addition, with this PBR, the Department’s Division of Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement must be notified of construction at least 2 weeks prior to the start of any construction.

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)6 – In order to qualify for this PBR, please note that the controlling flood hazard area must be tidal, as opposed to fluvial.  Unlike the previously listed PBR, the Department need not be provided with notice prior to construction.

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(c)2 – Please note that this PBR is reserved for utility towers.  It does not cover utility lines.  As is the case with PBR N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)6, the Department need not be provided with notice prior to construction.

Currently, there are no flood hazard area general permits available for permitting the construction of telecommunications towers.  Therefore, should the proposed project not qualify for any of the aforementioned PBRs, then a flood hazard area individual permit and verification would be required prior to the start of construction.  The technical standards are described in Subchapters 9, 10, and 11 of the rules. 

The construction of telecommunication towers in the coastal zone generally requires a permit. If the proposed construction of a telecommunication tower does not meet the requirements of the available exemption or general permit, then a CAFRA or Waterfront Development Individual permit and/or a Coastal Wetlands permit must be obtained.

Please refer 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 permits and exemptions for a project depends on where your project is proposed.  Additional information regarding the Division’s coastal program can be found on the “Coastal Permitting” section of this website. Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center for further assistance.

This coastal exemption may apply to your project—

  • The construction of telecommunication towers, such as cellular telephone towers, within CAFRA jurisdiction does not require a permit if the tower is located more than 150 feet from the mean high water line of any tidal waters or the landward limit of a beach or dune, whichever is most landward.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.1(b)3ii for information on the requirements of this exemption.

This coastal general permit may apply to your project –

  • Coastal General Permit 25 authorizes the construction of telecommunication towers such as cellular telephone and radio towers, including access roads and associated support buildings located upland of the mean high water line. For further information regarding the requirements of this general permit, please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.25.

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.

The construction of telecommunication towers 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 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.

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 9, 2014