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Drawing of land and water

Water Resources

Regulating Stream and River Flooding

For additional advice and information, contact the Resource Center.

New Jersey’s Streams and Rivers

New Jersey’s streams and rivers provide drinking water for over half of New Jersey’s population as well as providing scenic beauty, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat. Stream systems extend

Protecting the entire stream system or stream corridor is the best way to protect the stream’s health and water quality.

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Regulations Background

In August, 2004, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared flooding to be New Jersey’s number one natural hazard. From 1993 until April 2010, New Jersey experienced 1, 241 floods causing more than $1.25 billion in property damage and resulting in 14 deaths and 197 injuries. Between 2010 and 2012, FEMA issued 10 major disaster declarations in New Jersey related to storms or flooding.

According to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, approximately 35 percent of New Jersey residents live in floodplains.Back to Top

Application Process

The Flood Hazard Area Regulations adopted November 5, 2007, now include an optional Applicability Determination which is valid for a five-year duration unless regulations change. This determination establishes whether or not a project is subject to the regulations.

The application process also includes a provision for verifications of flood hazard design elevation, floodway limits, and riparian zone limits, similar to the Freshwater Wetlands Program Letter of Interpretation (Adobe PDF icon 117kb). The provision facilitates project planning by establishing clear parameters before expensive design begins.


New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection created a comprehensive Permits-By-Rule list judged to be de minimis activities that do not require prior NJDEP approval. They are similar to licenses in that no prior approval is required before initiating the specified activities as long as they meet specific standards. There are two general requirements:

The complete list can be found at NJAC 7:13-7 (Adobe PDF icon 1.1mb)

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General Permits

Unlike permits-by-rule, applicants for GENERAL PERMITS (GPs) must obtain prior approvals from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). The applicant knows he has approval if he doesn't receive comment from NJDEP within 45 days of submission.

NJDEP has identified 16 activities covered by GPs as having minimal impacts on flooding and the environment as long as the activities meet the standards. They include

The complete list of GPs can be found at NJAC 7:13-8 (Adobe PDF icon 1.1mb).

Public Notice requirements place more responsibility on the municipal clerk, who, presumably, will distribute them to the appropriate entities. Applicants are required to send the clerk three application copies. Previously, the applicant had to send public notice to the clerk, the environmental commission, planning board, municipal engineer and to the construction official.

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Riparian Zones

The Flood Hazard Area Regulations, adopted November 5, 2007 (Adobe PDF icon 1.1mb), provide more protection for stream buffers through new riparian zone protections. The regulations establish maximum disturbance and include vegetation replacement and mitigation for various activities. The NJDEP program, also known as Stream Encroachment Program issues, permits if a proposal meets the regulations.

The regulations establish the following new regulated riparian zones:

The riparian zone regulations limit the area of vegetation that can be disturbed for various regulated activities. An applicant can obtain a flood hazard area permit for disturbance of the riparian zone only if he/she meets very stringent conditions. They must establish that

The allowed riparian zone disturbances range from 300 square feet for reconstruction of a driveway in a 50-foot riparian zone to 5,000 square feet for construction of a private residence in a 300-foot buffer that received preliminary or final subdivision approval before October 2, 2006 and that meets the Stormwater Management Regulations. A number of permits allow disturbance in the riparian zone only 25 feet from the top of bank, including

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) will issue hardship waivers for projects that go beyond the limits set for riparian zone projects. The applicants must

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Tools for Municipal Action

Municipalities can enact ordinances that are stronger than the state flood hazard area rules. In these areas, development could not commence even with a state permit.

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