Dams are man-made structures consisting of earth, rock, concrete, and the like which impound large volumes of surface water. Dams are generally are regulated by the Department’s Bureau of Dam Safety and Flood Control and the Division of Land Use Regulation.
Dam 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. 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 dam projects. 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 repair, rehabilitation, replacement, maintenance, reconstruction, or removal of a dam within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit. One FWW General Permit (GP) is available for this activity, a GP18.
(GP18-Dam repair) [Link] - May be obtained if you are doing work to any serviceable dam within freshwater wetlands or transition areas and disturbing no more than 1 acre of those features. In addition, in order to obtain a GP18 you must have in hand or be in the process of obtaining an approval from the (Bureau of Dam Safety and Flood Control) [https://www.nj.gov/dep/damsafety/]. Please note, a GP18 is not for the construction of a new dam. If the dam repair cannot comply with the criteria for the above listed GP or a new dam is proposed to be constructed the applicant would need to apply for an (Individual Permit) [Link] (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.
Generally, dam construction must meet the requirements of the Standards for Dam Safety at N.J.A.C. 7:20 which are administered by the Bureau of Dam Safety and Flood Control. Only certain dams in regulated areas require authorization from the Division of Land Use Regulation pursuant to the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules. There are no flood hazard area permits-by-rule, general permits-by-certification, or general permits available for dam construction. This work may be authorized by a flood hazard area individual permit which would require a flood hazard area verification. All individual permits are subject to the requirements of N.J.A.C. 7:13-10, 11, and 12.
The term “low dam” means an artificial dike, levee or other barrier, which is constructed for the purpose of impounding water on a permanent or temporary basis, but which does not raise the water surface elevation enough to meet the definition of a dam. These dams are not subject to oversight by the Bureau of Dam Safety and Flood Control and so require a flood hazard area individual permit when proposed in a regulated area. N.J.A.C. 7:13-12.10 contains the technical standards that apply to low dams. General requirements at N.J.A.C. 7:13-10, riparian zone disturbance requirements at N.J.A.C. 7:13-11, and any other applicable requirements at N.J.A.C. 7:13-12 must also be met for the Department to issue an individual permit for a low dam or an activity on a low dam.
An individual permit under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules is also required for the following activities when proposed in, or discharging to, a regulated area:
1. The construction, replacement, repair, or removal of any dam that serves as a component of a stormwater management basin; and
2. Any regulated activity performed in association with the removal of a dam that serves as a component of a stormwater management basin.
All applicable requirements of the Dam Safety Standards at N.J.A.C. 7:20 must be met, in addition to the specific requirements at N.J.A.C. 7:13-12.11, the general requirements at N.J.A.C. 7:13-10, and riparian zone disturbance requirements at N.J.A.C. 7:13-11 apply.
If the dam activities are 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.
Please note: authorization from the Bureau of Dam Safety and Flood Control does not mean the dam is exempt from the Coastal Zone Management Rules’ and/or Freshwater Wetland rules’ jurisdiction. For additional information concerning the regulation of dams see www.nj.gov/dep/damsafety/index.htm.
Pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7, dams and impoundments are structures that obstruct natural water flow patterns for the purpose of forming a contained volume of water. Impoundments include dikes with sluice gates and other structures to control the flow of water. Except for medium rivers, creeks and stream as defined at N.J.A.C. 7:7-12.1, the construction of dams and impoundments is prohibited. The construction of these structures is conditionally acceptable in medium rivers, creeks and streams as defined at N.J.A.C. 7:7-12.1, provided:
- The structures are essential for water supply purposes or for the creation of special wildlife habitats;
- Adverse impacts are minimized; and
- The structures will not adversely affect navigation routes.
The “Jurisdiction” tab of the "Coastal Areas" webpage can help you determine which areas of your site may be regulated. Please be advised, there are no exemptions, Permits-by-rule, General Permits-by-Certification, or General Permits available for dam construction, repair, maintenance and/or reconstruction. Therefore, this work generally requires receipt of an Individual Permit.
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.
The construction of a new dam or the reconstruction of an existing dam 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 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.