New Jersey proposes revision to waterway access rules

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After considering numerous public comments, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Monday formally proposed amended “common-sense” rules to improve and enhance public access to New Jersey's beaches, bays and waterways, DEP commissioner Bob Martin announced.

In particular, the DEP proposed changes that provide greater public access for fishermen across the state, enhanced opportunities for the public to participate in the crafting of municipal public access plans and clarified the protection and continuity of the Hudson River walkway while also clarifying rules regarding marinas.

“Providing ample access to our ocean beaches, bays and rivers is a fundamental right for all residents of New Jersey and the driving force behind these rules,” Martin said in a statement. ”We heard the suggestions and concerns expressed by many of our residents during a very robust public comment period over the past year and have responded by making changes to the proposed rules, especially recognizing the needs of the fishing community in New Jersey.”

Among the changes:

• Provide enhanced public access for recreational fishermen by ensuring that municipal public access plans include defined and guaranteed points of access for day and night fishing.

• Provide greater transparency and public involvement in the development of municipal public access plans by ensuring that proposed access plans are posted on the DEP website and that the public has an opportunity to comment on them.

• Do not require marinas to expand access when improving existing facilities, but development on adjacent sites would require marina owners to provide public access plans.

• Mandate public access to and along the main route of the Hudson Waterfront Walkway and adjacent piers on a 24-hour basis, except in very limited circumstances, and require conformance to existing Hudson Walkway design guidelines and standards.

Public hearings on the amended rules are scheduled for April 18 in Avalon and Long Branch.

Martin said the DEP will work closely with towns and cities to craft access plans that make “local sense and protect the rights and needs of residents and businesses, instead of imposing one-size-fits-all, state-dictated access rules.”

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