Governor Christie and the New Jersey Legislature Act to Save NJDEP Public Access Rules

On January 19, 2016, Governor Christie signed a bill that allows the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to continue to regulate public access on or adjacent to the waterfront. The legislation, S-3321, which was sponsored by Senators Smith, Van Drew and Bateman, along with a companion bill A-4927, sponsored in the General Assembly by Assembly Members Spencer and Rumana, was introduced, passed by the New Jersey Legislature and signed by Governor Christie in less than a month during the “Lame Duck” legislative session.   S-3321 was enacted in response to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division decision issued on December 22, 2015, striking down the NJDEP’s public access regulations, as reported in our December 2015 Client Alert. NJDEP may now continue to regulate public access as part of issuing Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) and Waterfront Development permits.

Notwithstanding the enactment of this legislation, Senator Smith, Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, indicated that he was going to form a stakeholder group to re-examine NJDEP’s public access regulations.  It is unclear whether such a process will lead to new legislation regarding public access on beaches or waterfronts.

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