TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew that would delay Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations requiring marina owners to give the public broad access to their facilities awaits action by Governor after passing both houses of the Legislature on Monday.
“New Jersey’s marinas are a critical component of our rich tourism industry, providing people from throughout the Northeast with access to fishing and boating opportunities that are second to none,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland. “But the ability of marinas to thrive has been threatened by new DEP regulations that were poorly conceived and place far too many burdens on marina owners and operators.”
Senator Van Drew’s bill, S-1553, would impose a moratorium on the implementation of the rules and regulations adopted by DEP on December 17, 2007 governing public access at marinas. The regulations required marinas to provide 24-hour public access to waterfront areas as well as extra parking spaces and restrooms for public use. The moratorium would expire on December 31, 2010.
“Twenty-four-hour access to marina waterfronts sounds like a good idea on the surface, but it presents marina operators with real difficulties as they look to run their facilities safely and provide quality services to their private customers,” explained Senator Van Drew. “The new regulations simply go too far and we need to restart the process from scratch.
The bill would also establish the Public Access and Marina Safety Task Force to conduct a study addressing the issues raised by the rules and regulations and submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature by December 31, 2010.
Senator Van Drew added, “The Task Force will bring everyone affected by the new regulations to the table and have them work together to develop more reasonable guidelines for public access that will fairly balance the rights of the public with the needs of marina operators and patrons.”
Under the bill, the Public Access and Marina Safety Task Force would consist of 10 members including a representative each from the DEP and the Office of Maritime Resources in the Department of Transportation, four elected public officials, to be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, representing the coastal communities of Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties, respectively, and four public members to be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Of the four public members, one shall be a representative of the Urban Coast Institute of Monmouth University, and one shall be a representative of the environmental community with a recognized expertise and specialization in coastal and shore protection issues. The remaining public members shall represent marina operators or a marine trade association.
The bill requires that for the duration of the moratorium, the DEP shall not (1) require a marina facility to provide unlimited public access to the waterfront; (2) require a conservation easement by means of a deed restriction; (3) require perpendicular access across the entire waterfront; or (4) require additional parking, as a condition of any permit for activities relating to the expansion or renovation of an existing marina facility issued pursuant to the waterfront development statute (R.S.12:5-3), “The Wetlands Act of 1970,” or the “Coastal Area Facility Review Act.”
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 38-0 and the Assembly by a vote of 79-0 and now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.