Measure Would Create Moratorium on Broad New Access Rules Deemed Too Drastic by Marina Owners
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew which will delay implementation of new Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rules to give the public broad access to private marina facilities in New Jersey was signed into law yesterday by Governor Corzine.
“The public has a right to access their waterways, but private marinas are an important part of the shore’s tourism economy,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May and Cumberland. “Each marina is not created the same, and owners need time to develop plans which address the unique issues surrounding access at their facility, including public safety, site operation, and geographic location. A delay in the implementation of DEP’s public access rules is simply a matter of fairness to people who’ve invested a lot of time and capital in the Jersey Shore.”
The bill, S-1553, will impose a moratorium on the implementation of the rules and regulations adopted by DEP in December of 2007 governing public access at marinas. The DEP regulations would have required marinas to provide 24-hour public access to waterfront areas as well as extra parking spaces and restrooms for public use. Under the new law, however, the regulations will not go into effect until January 1, 2011.
“The DEP rules would have required a pretty extensive review of private marinas’ business plans,” said Senator Van Drew. “That’s not something a busy business owner can accomplish overnight. The economy in South Jersey, as well as around the nation, is already in bad shape without the government imposing unreasonable new rules on business owners.”
The bill will also establish a 10-member Public Access and Marina Safety Task Force – consisting of a representative each from the DEP and the Office of Maritime Resources in the Department of Transportation, four elected public officials from Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties, and four public members, including representatives of the State’s environmental advocacy and marina owners’ and marine trade organizations – 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.
“There’s obviously a need for public access at private marinas, but we need to approach this, moving forward, with input from all the stakeholders – not just the environmental community,” said Senator Van Drew. “I appreciate the need for public access, but at the same time, it has to be done right, with an emphasis on safety and without jeopardizing the livelihoods of people who work at private marinas. By bringing together a panel of experts, we can ensure a fairer model going forward, accomplishing the goals of public access without crippling the economic well-being of private marinas operating around the State.”
The bill was approved by both the Senate and the General Assembly in June.