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New DEP Proposal Limits Beach Access

Date : Fri, 20 Jul 2012 11:36:23 -0400

For Immediate Release
July 09, 2012 Contact:Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

New DEP Proposal Limits Beach Access In summer as people want more access to our waterways instead of helping increase access, the DEP is blocking it.The DEP has proposed a second substantive change on adoption to the Beach Access Rules in the July 2 Register.The new change would eliminate the Department of Transportation's (DOT) responsibility to require public access points for linear developments such as highway and bridge projects.The Christie administration's beach access rules were a major setback for public access.The rules were weakened for marinas, industrial facilities and redevelopment sites, and now they are doing it for transportation.Instead of requiring a state agency to meet public access standards we are dumbing them down and rolling them back to the lowest common denominator instead of doing what is best for the people of New Jersey.We are taking the side of limiting public access instead of following New Jersey law and legal precedent which requires more access.DOT is using public money on public land to limit access and that is why they should be held to a higher standard of providing more access, not less.New transportation improvement projects will hinder access instead of improving it, hurting our tourism industry.This administration keeps weakening public access and the public needs to stand up and oppose this rule.The Sierra Club continues to oppose the beach access rule and the proposed changes.

"When they first proposed the rule it was a major roll back of our public access.With each new change to the rules they are cutting access even more.This is part of the overall chipping away at the Public Trust doctrine and the right of the people of New Jersey to access our waterways.These rules take the side of the 1% versus the 99% that use the beaches," said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club."The groups that have always been the problem such as municipalities and the DOT are now going to be writing their own plans and those plans are not even enforceable." Many DOT projects can block access or viewsheds to waterways throughout the state.The purpose of the rule was to get them to build access points when new projects go forward such as pull off areas for scenic views, fishing access, a boat ramp, or a pedestrian walkway on a new bridge.This provides access and promotes safety.In many cases highway and bridge projects have blocked access in the past and these rules were to help fix past actions and open more areas up to public access.This not only helps provide access but encourages tourism. Under the rule changes instead of requiring access or protection of viewsheds, the DOT just has to come in with a plan for access.However there are no standards, requirements or penalties if they do not submit a plan or fail to follow the plan. They have exempted all road expansions that stay within an existing right-of-way (ROW).Many existing roads already have very wide ROWs so we are exempting most if not all DOT projects from an access plan.Where there has been acquisition of new ROW or construction of a new highway, the requirement allows them to do offsite improvements for access.However the off-site location has to be part of a town plan with a DOT plan to concur with it.If there is no plan is there no access? In many cases when they do road and bridge projects they destroy wetlands and tidal marshes and take away views.Providing access mitigates for those impacts.Access can be done in a way to ensure it is done safely such as installing a boat launch, a waterfront walk, or scenic view pull off. The beach access rule has already been adopted in its entirety except for one section that was re-proposed.Now they are proposing changes on a section that was already adopted.The legality of such a move is highly questionable.We oppose substantive change on adoption as an abuse of power and now after the rule has been adopted the DEP is taking a third bite at the apple.With the DEP beginning to accept waiver applications in August, even more access can be blocked.

"This is another example of Christie's Administration roll back of rules in environmental protection, whether it is the bad Waiver Rule, clean energy monies, or now the Beach Access Rules. This Administration is trying to undo 30 years of environmental protection including access to our beaches," Jeff Tittel said. The New Jersey Sierra Club believes these rule are a violation of the Public Trust Doctrine. New Jersey Supreme Court Rules that all tidal waters belong to the people of New Jersey. These rules for a municipal access plan are still too vague and will be used to get around providing adequate access. Since the rules are so vague this will let the towns do whatever they please instead of providing the necessary access. These rules limit access in urban areas more than anywhere else by being used to wall off our waterfront from the public.Under these rules existing commercial and industrial buildings, sewer plants, marinas and other large facilities are exempted. There will be a public hearing on the rule changes July 31^st .

"The DEP's Beach Access Rules limit the public right to get to the water ways and beaches they own. Calling these public access rules is an oxymoron; they do the opposite. They violate public trust and limit the public's right to access their beaches and waterways," *Jeff Tittel said. *"What will happen the next time -- will they re-propose the rule again to chip away at more public access and more of the public's rights?"

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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