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

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Utility Lines

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

Utility Lines are pipes, cables, lines, conduits, or wires for the transport or transmission of gases, liquids, electrical energy or comunications and the poles or towers that supports them, but does not include a tower or pole that only transmits waves through the air such as for radio, television, or telephone transmission.

Activities which may disturb special areas of the State that are regulated by the Department, including the construction of Utility Lines, 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.

Utility Lines may require multiple approvals, 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 Utility Lines 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 maintenance or construction of utility lines within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit or FWW Transition Area waiver. Several FWW General Permits (GP) are available for these types of activities.

GP1-Maintenance and repair of existing features

May be obtained if you have an exsiting utility line and are conducting repairs or maintenance to it and not increasing disturbances to freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open waters.

GP2-Underground utility lines

May be obtained if you have are installing an underground utility line such as a gas pipe, sewer pipe, or underground electric line across freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open waters and disturbing no more than 0.5 acres of those features. In addition, certain above ground components, such as man holes, gas meters and valves may be permitted under a GP2. Also any disturbance over 0.1 acres to wetlands under a GP2 the applicant must provide mitigation.

GP21-Above ground utility lines - May be obtained if you have are installing an above ground utility line such as a telephone, cable, or electric line across freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open waters and disturbing no more than 0.5 acres of those features. In addition, certain components besided the utility lines, such as poles, towers, and pad mounted transformers may be permitted under a GP2.Also any disturbance over 0.1 acres to wetlands under a GP21 the applicant is required to provide mitigation.

Transition Area Waivers (TAW)

TAW - Averaging Plan - May be obtained for impacts from utility lines in transition areas only, but not in combination with any General Permit which would increase the allowable amount of disturbance under that permit.

TAW - Linear Development- May be obtained for impacts from utility lines to transition areas only, but not in combination with any General Permit which would increase the allowable amount of disturbance under that permit. In addition, there must be no feasibile alternative location for the linear development, including modifying the route, reducing the width, or utilizing areas not owned by the applicant. Also the proposed utility line must meet the definition of Linear Development under the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules, specifically, connecting two exsiting points with a new utility line.

If the utility line cannot comply with the criteria for the above listed GP's and TAW's, the applicant would need to apply for an Individual Permit. 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.

(See the Wetlands webpage for more information on TAW's and IPs)

The construction of a utility line 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 six different Permits by Rule (PBRs) as described in N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(c). These six PBRs cover a range of utility projects, including utility poles, open frame utility towers located outside a floodway, utility lines located beneath a regulated water that are constructed via directional drilling, utility lines located beneath existing pavement, utility lines attached to existing bridges or culverts, and underground utility lines located in a flood hazard area and outside the riparian zone.

In order to qualify for the PBRs mentioned above, the reader is referred to N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(c) to become familiarized with the limitations of each of the six types of PBRs. Please note that the construction of a storm sewer system with a discharge in a regulated area would not qualify for any of these PBRs. That is because the Department considers this activity as the construction of a stormwater outfall as opposed to a utility line. A utility line, under the rules, is meant to include a line that transmits gases, oil, drinking water, wastewater, or electric conduits.

If the proposed project does not qualify for any of the aforementioned PBRs, then it may qualify under a Flood Hazard Area General Permit 8 (FHAGP8). It is important to note that the FHAGP8 may utilized only to authorize a utility line that crosses as stream, but the size of the stream’s watershed must be less than 50 acres. Please note that this limitation refers to the size of the watershed and not the size of the property upon which the footbridge would be located.

If the proposed project can not qualify for any of the PBRs or the General Permit 8, then a flood hazard area individual permit would be required.

The construction of new utility lines, such as power, water, sewer, natural gas, cable, petroleum pipelines, and stormwater pipelines within CAFRA, Waterfront Development or Coastal Wetlands jurisdictions generally requires a coastal permit. In addition to the coastal permit-by-rule and the coastal general permit available for utility line construction, there are also numerous exemptions available for utility line work within CAFRA and Waterfront Development jurisdiction.
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 permits and exemptions for a project depends on where your project is proposed.

If the project does not meet the requirements for an exemption, a permit-by-rule or a general permit, the project will generally require a Waterfront Development or CAFRA Individual permit and /or a Coastal Wetlands l permit.  Additional information regarding the 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.


These coastal exemptions may apply to your project--

  • The maintenance, repair or replacement (including upgrade) of existing petroleum, sewage or natural gas pipelines within CAFRA jurisdiction which are located completely within paved roadways or paved, gravel, or cleared and maintained rights-of-way provided there is no increase in the associated sewer service area.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.1(b)2i for information on the requirements of this exemption.
  • The construction, maintenance, repair or replacement (including upgrade) of water lines, telecommunication and cable television lines within CAFRA jurisdiction which are located completely within paved roadways or paved, gravel, or cleared and maintained rights-of-way  Please refer to N.J.A.C, 7:7-2.1(b)2iii for information on the requirements of this exemption.
  • The maintenance and repair of existing stormwater management facilities within CAFRA jurisdiction which receive, store, convey or discharge stormwater runoff.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.1(b)2v for information on the requirements of this exemption.
  • The construction of less than 1,200 linear feet of new stormwater pipes within CAFRA jurisdiction.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.1(b) 2vi for information on the requirements of this exemption.
  • The construction, maintenance, repair or replacement of power lines within CAFRA jurisdiction.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.1(b)ix for information on the requirements of this exemption.
  • The construction of a sanitary sewer, petroleum or natural gas pipeline or the extension of a sanitary sewer, petroleum, natural gas pipeline or stormwater management facility of less than 1,200 linear feet within CAFRA jurisdiction and located more than 150 feet from the mean high water line or landward limit of beach or dune whichever is most landward.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.1(b) 3i for information on the requirements of this exemption.
  • The reconstruction, conversion, alteration or enlargement of any existing structure within Upland Waterfront Development jurisdiction and located more than 100 feet landward of the mean high water line, provided no change in land use results, and the enlargement is not greater than 5,000 square feet. Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.3(d)2 for information on the requirements of this exemption.
  • The minor addition to or changes in existing structures within Upland Waterfront Development jurisdiction that do not result in adverse environmental impacts to Special Areas defined at N.J.A.C. 7:7E-3, provided the addition is located in an existing cleared area of the site, is set back a minimum of 15 feet from the mean high water line, and such changes do not result in a change in land use. Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.3(d)2 for information on the requirements of this exemption.

This coastal permit-by rule may apply to your project --

  • Coastal Permit-by-Rule 8 authorizes the construction of the portion of a utility line crossing a tidal waterway up to the mean high water line provided a tidelands instrument has been obtained for the utility line.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.2(a)8 for information on the requirements of this permit-by-rule..

These coastal general permits may apply to your project --

Coastal General Permit 16 authorizes the landfall of utilities constructed in tidal water bodies provided the appropriate Waterfront Development or Flood Hazard Area permits have been obtained.    Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.16 for information on the requirements of this general permit.

Coastal General Permit 23  authorizes the modification of existing electrical substations within the existing fence line to maintain substation and electrical load and system reliability.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.23 for more information on the requirements of this general permit.

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.

A utility line that is 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 any portion of 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