WHELAN & VAN DREW BILL TO EASE SHELLFISH HABITAT RULES FOR DREDGING CLEARS SENATE

Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic, speaking at a panel discussion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan and Senator Jeff Van Drew that would limit the application of Department of Environmental Protection shellfish habitat rules for dredging activities in order to maintain commercial and recreational activities at existing facilities was approved today by the Senate.

Under the bill, S-2369, the DEP would exempt from the shellfish habitat rule dredging projects:

  • involving the established footprint of a functioning marina in operation on the date of enactment of this bill into law or the footprint of a marina that was in operation up to 10 years prior to the date of enactment of this bill into law;
  • along a 75-foot-wide direct channel between the existing, functioning marina and its docks and the closest State or federal navigation channel serving the locality for the marina;
  • within 250 feet of a vertical timber or other material bulkhead supporting an upland development with a water dependent use, or that had a water dependent use up to 10 years prior to the date of enactment of this bill into law; or
  • within 250 feet of the mean high water line adjacent to an upland development with a water dependent use or that had a water dependent use up to 10 years prior to the date of enactment of this bill into law.

“The DEP’s rules create too much bureaucratic tape for existing marinas, and this is having an adverse economic impact on our local fishing industry,” said Senator Whelan (D-Atlantic). “In an effort to keep the industry and our local economy alive, loosening the burdensome DEP rules regarding dredging will have a significant impact.”

Under the exemption, a person would be limited to dredging the area of the bay floor that is essential to the water dependent use of the upland development.  Water dependent use, as defined in the bill, means development that cannot physically function without direct access to the body of water along which it is located. The bill would not apply to new development or to an expansion of any water dependent use at the existing development.

“We have to strike a balance between protecting our environment and allowing our existing fishing industry to continue to thrive,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland). “Loosening some of the strictest rules will promote the economic activity to this region of our state while ensuring that the shellfish habitat is protected.”

A person dredging as allowed under the bill would have to obtain all other permits and approvals for the dredging as may be required pursuant to State or federal law, rule, or regulation, or local ordinance.

The bill was approved with a vote of 36-0. It next heads to the Assembly for consideration.