Towns seeking a share of the state's annual $25 million for shore-protection
projects have a new mandate to provide public
access to tidal waterways, beaches and shores, under broad new state rules
Oceanside communities must provide public restrooms every half-mile along the
beach as well as parking, according to a newly issued state Department of
Environmental Protection fact sheet. The requirements have been discussed for
more than a year in negotiations over beach replenishment projects, and
municipal officials say they have contributed to some of the recent resistance
to beach-building among seaside homeowners.
In their final form, the rules contain some modifications to address
complaints from private marina operators, and allay fears that public access
would be forced through bayside lagoon neighborhoods. In addition, the rules
specify that towns, counties and nonprofit organizations seeking state Green
Acres funding for sites along tidal waterways must provide public access, the
fact sheet says.
Advocates for environmental and recreational groups welcomed the announcement.
"Having access doesn't mean much if you don't have a place to park,"
said Thomas P. Fote, legislative chairman for the Jersey Coast Anglers
Association, which pushes for better waterfront access for fishermen.
It's a contentious issue for fishermen, even in places where public access was
promised in earlier shore-protection projects, he said.
"The state needs to enforce the access in places like Deal and Sea
Bright," Fote said.
Along the Point Pleasant Canal, neighbors have tried to block access,
"and we've paid for that bulkhead and the maintenance with our tax
dollars," Fote added.
In Sea Bright, Councilman Thomas E. Scriven said "We are deeply committed
to public access."
In September 2006, the DEP sued Sea Bright and several beach clubs in the town
over access. The borough maintained in a counterclaim filed in January that it
has kept its promise to provide more access and public parking under a 1993
agreement, even though it contends the state changed its interpretation of the
The newly adopted rules, Scriven said, address the same issues that the state
raised in the lawsuit.
Beaches belong to all
Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter, commended DEP
Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson for the new requirements.
"I think the rules were the first big step in a long time to open up
access for the public to get to the beach," Tittel said. "The coast
is a resource that belongs to all of us, and these rules will help make that
However, Harvey Cedars Mayor Jonathan S. Oldham said he favored more options
and flexibility for coastal towns.
"I'm disappointed that the state didn't seem to listen a whole lot to
what was said in the public hearings," Oldham said. "I think we have
most of our issues covered in the beach access plan we submitted to the state
two years ago."
That plan may fall just short of fulfilling mandated distances for parking and
bathrooms, but Harvey Cedars has all of that at its bayside public park a
couple of blocks from the ocean, Oldham said.
First proposed in November 2006, the rules seek to "maintain and
enhance" public access to the beaches and tidal waters. The rules take
legal justification from the public trust doctrine, a legal principle that
dates back to Roman civil law, which New Jersey courts have held to be a
guarantee of public access to and use of tidal waters.
The initial rule proposal surprised the marina industry, whose members said it
made unreasonable demands for round-the-clock public access to boat yards and
would expose them to liability from accidents.
As published, the rules would provide certain exceptions for some marinas, but
clearly indicate that public access will be required at marinas that also have
townhouse dwelling units and nonmarine commercial development.
The New Jersey Marine Trades Association asked the DEP to make changes, and
the group needs to examine the document before commenting, said Melissa Danko,
the organization's executive director.
Other exceptions to public access are specified to cover issues such as
military and homeland security, and natural resources problems, such as
closing a shoreside area to protect endangered species.
Mindful of the coming rules, some beachfront communities have begun to think
about meeting the new rule for public bathrooms every half-mile. Mantoloking
officials are looking into providing portable, "luxury grade"
lavatories that would be parked near the beach during the day and towed away
at night during the summer.
The bathrooms demand has alarmed some residents who worry about the prospect
of portable toilets like those used on construction sites. But the bathrooms
are a comparatively minor issue compared with controversy over the perpetual
easement access agreements the state wants from beachfront property owners
before proceeding with the replenishment project on Long Beach Island, said
Long Beach Township Mayor DiAnne C. Gove.
"The real step forward here is making sure that . . . access is usable by
providing pathways to the beach parking spaces and bathrooms," said Tim
Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society.
The rules are "a tremendous step forward in . . . really guaranteeing the
public that they can get to the ocean and to the beach and use it as their
right," he said.
Dillingham said he's a little concerned about one change in the rules proposed
Monday that would apply public access requirements only to the beach sections
getting additional sand.
But if towns want beach replenishment, they will have to provide public access
to that part of the beach, he said. It's an important issue because some towns
for years have tried to reserve part of their beach for private homeowners by
not building access ways, and "now they're going to face a real decision
as to whether or not they want to protect that real estate through beach
nourishment" he said.
The rules affect hundreds of miles of shoreline, including the 127-mile
oceanfront and 83 miles of shoreline along Raritan and Delaware bays,
according to the DEP documents.
ON THE WEB:
Visit our Web site, www.app.com
and click on this story for a link to DEP's public access rules. Also join the
online conversation on this topic in Story Chat.
Staff writer Nina Rizzo contributed to this story, which includes material
from Asbury Park Press archives. Todd B. Bates: (732) 643-4237 or email@example.com
By BRUCE A. SCRUTON
MATAMORAS Ã¢â‚¬â€ Plans that could ease flooding on the Delaware River as well
as increase fishing and boating will be explained today by experts from the
Delaware River Basin Commission.
The proposal, called a Flexible Flow Management Plan, is the commission's
attempt to address concerns about flooding, recreational use, preserving the
river's ecology and maintaining a drinking water supply for as many as 15
million people, including New York City.
The sessions, one from 3 to 5 p.m. and the other from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.,
will be held at the Best Western Inn at Hunt's Landing on Routes 6 and 209.
Experts from the commission and the Delaware River Master will present the
plan in a Power Point display and take questions.
Another session will be held on Jan. 8 in Philadelphia, and the formal
public hearing to accept public comments is scheduled for Jan. 18 at the West
Trenton Volunteer Fire Company.
The commission, w created in 1961, is made up of governors' representatives
from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York and a representative of
the federal government. While the commission administers the river basin, the
flow management agreement was hammered out between the four states and New
York City, a requirement set down by a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision
dealing with how water from the river can be used.
New York City gets about half its drinking water from reservoirs on the
upper reaches of the Delaware River, piping it through aqueducts through the
Catskill Mountains. Numerous downstream cities, including Trenton and
Philadelphia, also draw water from the river.
Three major floods along the river in 18-months led state officials to look
at why the floods caused so much damage. Among the charges were that the
reservoirs were mismanaged and, some claimed, were prime cause of such high
Although experts have shown the reservoirs played only a minor part in the
flooding, there was a move to look at how the water levels held by New York
City could be used to ease flooding in the future and how releases from the
reservoirs can keep river levels high enough for recreation, provide enough
cold, clean water to preserve one of the best trout-fishing areas in the
country and provide a flow strong enough to keep the ocean from inching
upstream toward the water intakes for places like Philadelphia.
The management plan calls for a 1,000-cubic-feet-per-second, or about 6
percent, increase in the flow of the river at Montague from mid-June to
mid-September to coincide with the summer recreation period when thousands of
people seek the whitewater of the Upper Delaware.
Under the Supreme Court's decision, New York City is allowed to take up to
an average of 800 million gallons of water a day from its three reservoirs:
Pepacton on the East Branch of the Delaware, Cannonsville on the West Branch
and Neversink Reservoir on the Neversink River which flows into the Delaware
near where the borders of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania meet.
In the past, the city has tried to keep as much water as possible in its
reservoirs, reasoning that a drought could start at any time. According to
critics, the fact the reservoirs were nearly full meant they could not absorb
the rainfall which, in turn, led to higher flood levels.
People concerned about the ecology of the river said that low levels lead
to warmer water, which kills off or weakens aquatic life that needs colder
water to survive.
The plan provides a set of charts to outline so-called mitigation releases
during certain times of the year to provide a water level suitable to protect
the ecology of the river immediately downstream of the three reservoirs and to
provide more of a void, or lower reservoir capacity, which would serve a a
kind of shock absorber in heavy rain or snowmelt events.
The commission will take testimony on the plan through the close of
business on Jan. 18. Details on how to submit written statements, as well as
the full flexible flow management plan, are available on the commission's Web
site at: www.state.nj.us/drbc./
Mr. Robert Oehrle
Dear Mr. Oehrle: