Warning: An estimated 49% of all New Jersey Properties fall within a DEP “Special Area”.
Are you or a client considering buying undeveloped land, building a home, putting on addition, building a garage? How about putting in a driveway or a pool. In every case, the presence of “DEP Special Areas” may affect where and whether you or your client can buy, build, or develop. In New Jersey and throughout the United States, “Special Areas” are protected on public and private property.
You purchase your dream property, plenty of land, a babbling brook flowing near the back of the property, aahhhh serenity now! You have plans, big plans. Expand the detached one car garage to a three car garage, put in a pool with patio and cabana. BUT WAIT! You apply for the permits and are told the stream near your property is a Category 1 stream. If the proposed plans are within 300 ft of the stream, designated as “special areas”, these areas are protected through various rules and regulations. Any major development defined as 1?4 acre increase in impervious surface or 1 acre of disturbance. Any area within 150 ft of the stream has much higher restrictions.
Many property owners have had projects rejected or modified because of “Wetlands”, which are commonly referred to as swamps, marshes, or bogs. However many wetlands in New Jersey are forested and do not fit the classic picture of a swamp or marsh. Virtually, all activities proposed in the wetland, including cutting of vegetation, dredging, excavation or removal of soil, drainage or disturbance of the water level, filling or discharge of any materials, driving of pilings, and placing of obstructions, within 150 feet of a wetland may be in a transition area and you may need a DEP transition area waiver. (See “Wetlands” below.)
NJ Property Fax will initiate a search for possible Wetlands or Category 1 Waters, ie; “Special Areas” on your property. A report in pdf form is emailed to you within 24 hours, most reports are completed within a few hours. The report consists of the following map overlays:
Wetlands are commonly referred to as swamps, marshes, or bogs. However, many wetlands in New Jersey are forested and do not fit the classic picture of a swamp or marsh. Previously misunderstood as wastelands, wetlands are now being recognized for their vital ecological and socioeconomic contributions.
New Jersey protects wetlands under the New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 13:9B. This law also protects transition areas or "buffers" around freshwater wetlands. New Jersey also protects coastal wetlands under a different law. See the pamphlet entitled Guide to New Jersey's Coastal Permitting Program if you are in a coastal area and think you may have coastal wetlands on your property.
If your land contains freshwater wetlands, you are very limited in what you may do in the wetlands. The Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act requires DEP to regulate virtually all activities proposed in the wetland, including cutting of vegetation, dredging, excavation or removal of soil, drainage or disturbance of the water level, filling or discharge of any materials, driving of pilings, and placing of obstructions.
The most common type of freshwater wetlands permit is a general permit. General permits cover a limited number of very minor activities, such as:
If your activity is not eligible for authorization under a general permit, DEP may, in very limited circumstances, issue an individual freshwater wetlands permit. Individual permits require an extensive alternatives analysis and are therefore much less common than general permits.
If you want to pursue activities in an area within 150 feet of a wetland, you may be in a transition area (sometimes called a zone or buffer) and you may need a DEP transition area waiver. A transition area is a strip of land bordering the wetlands. The width of the transition area may vary from 150 feet down to nothing, depending on the value of the particular wetland. For example, a wetland containing endangered species habitat would require a 150 foot wide transition area, whereas a small wetland in a ditch might not require any transition area at all. Most freshwater wetlands require a 50?foot transition area.
There are many small activities that can be pursued in a transition area under general permits, like the general permits discussed above, for activities in freshwater wetlands. In addition, in some cases the transition area's shape may be altered to allow an activity, without diminishing its total size. This is called transition area averaging.
Many of us grew up thinking wetlands should be drained for farming or filled in for development. But wetlands contribute to the social, economic, and environmental health of our nation in many ways:
Wetlands protect drinking water by filtering out chemicals, pollutants, and sediments that would otherwise clog and contaminate our waters.
Wetlands soak up runoff from heavy rains and snow melts, providing natural flood control. Wetlands release stored flood waters during droughts.
Wetlands provide critical habitats for a major portion of the State's fish and wildlife, including endangered, commercial and recreational species.
Wetlands provide high quality open space for recreation and tourism. Many of these values were not widely appreciated until the 1970s and 1980s. By then, more than half of the nation's wetlands were destroyed. The New Jersey freshwater wetlands program protects freshwater wetlands, and upland areas within 150 feet of wetlands (sometimes called “zones or buffers"), from development which will impair the wetlands' ability to provide the values listed above.
Category 1 waters are defined in the existing Surface Water Quality Standards rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9B?1.4 as waters protected from any measurable changes in water quality because of their exceptional ecological significance, exceptional recreational significance, exceptional water supply significance, or exceptional fisheries resources. Category 1 waters have more stringent anti?degradation requirements than Category Two waters.
The Category 1 designation provides additional protection to water bodies that helps prevent water quality degradation and discourage development where it would impair or destroy natural resources and water quality. The maintenance of water quality is important to residents, particularly to the many communities that depend on surface waters for drinking water supplies, recreation, fishing, and shellfish harvesting.
To date, the Department has designated over 4,552 stream miles and 12,374 acres of lakes and reservoirs as Category One waters. Most of these designations were made in 1985 to include surface waters located within state and federal parks, wildlife management areas, and trout production waters. Since 1985, only streams upgraded to freshwater?trout production (FW2?TP) were designated as Category One waters.
If a property owner is planning new construction in the vicinity of a water body which is given the Category 1 Water designation, then it is important to determine the distance of the proposed construction in relation to the waterway.
Buffers are vegetated areas adjacent to waterways that provide protection to New Jersey’s water quality. These special areas are established and protected through various rules and may vary in width.
300 foot buffer or Special Water Resource Protection Area (SWRPA) is required for all “Major Development” (1/4 acre increase in impervious surface or 1 acre of disturbance), that is adjacent to a waterway that is designated as C1 or to an upstream tributary within the same HUC 14 AND that is mapped on either the County Soil Survey or the USGS Quad map.
All disturbances in the SWRPA must be approved by the Department of Environmental Protection in a DLUR permit or by the Division of Watershed Management, when no DLUR permit is required. Development in the SWRPA is permitted in limited circumstances, for example, for a project that involves: a linear development, a unique hardship, or disturbance of the outer 150 feet of the SWRPA that is already disturbed only if the overall functional value of the SWRPA is maintained or improved.
GIS ? Geographic Information Systems A Geographic Information System (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows us to view, understand question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.
NJ Property Fax has all its Wetlands and Category 1 Waters Searches performed by Western Technologies Group, LLC. Western Technologies Group, LLC is a New Jersey mapping company leveraging 20 years of mapping experience, collections of parcel mapping, tax maps, filed sub?division maps and engineering drawings to identify, in real space, property boundaries in New Jersey. This geographic data helps WTG make accurate, timely and informed decisions. WTG is a leader in Tidelands, Flood, Wetlands and Category 1 Waters Searches, for hundreds of Title companies, banks, mortgage companies and Real Property professionals in the US.