NJ Grant Program Helps Local Governments
Christie Administraation Seeking Applications
(14/P27) TRENTON, NJ – The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is seeking applications from municipalities for grants to help them develop plans that improve the public’s enjoyment of New Jersey’s beaches, bays and tidal waterways and to make public access points and related facilities more storm-resilient.
The DEP’s Public Access Rule provides common sense mechanisms for the state to work cooperatively with local governments to enhance public access to New Jersey’s tidal waterways. The rules went into effect on Nov. 5, 2012 – just one week after Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey.
“New Jersey already has great access to its beaches and tidal waterways,” Commissioner Bob Martin said. “Through the Public Access Rule, we are working to make access even better by setting up a framework that enables the DEP to work one-on-one with municipalities on plans that make sense locally rather than imposing one-size-fits-all mandates.
“Superstorm Sandy hit as the Public Access Rule went into effect, understandably diverting focus from this important effort,” Commissioner Martin added. “This grant program helps us get us back on track by providing local governments with the financial tools they need to resume planning for public access enhancements.”
The DEP’s Division of Coastal and Land Use Planning will provide grant awards of up to $25,000 to communities to develop Municipal Public Access Plans (MPAPs) and to prepare Coastal Vulnerability Assessment (CVA) reports that evaluate steps that can be taken to make public access points and related infrastructure more storm resilient. MPAPs consist of an inventory of public access locations, plus plans to develop or enhance access based on community needs and state standards.
Enhancements may include a host of possibilities such as walkways, dune crossovers, fishing piers, boat and kayak launches, parking areas, restroom facilities, signage and informational materials.
Proposals for development of both a MPAP and a CVA report are eligible for grants of up to $25,000 total. Up to $15,000 may be allocated for development of the MPAP or up to $15,000 may be allocated for development of the CVA Report, but the total may not exceed $25,000.
The grant program is funded through $200,000 awarded to the DEP by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The DEP is currently working with 10 municipalities to develop access plans under a first-round NOAA grant award. They include Brooklawn, Carteret, Harrison Town, Keyport, Long Beach, Middle Township, Millville, Newark, Somers Point and Toms River.
“A common misperception about the Public Access Rule is that it applies only to municipalities along the ocean and coastal bays,” said Commissioner Martin. “The fact is that the reach of this program extends inland along tidal rivers to communities such as Linden, which is the first city in New Jersey to submit an access plan for review and approval.”
“The City of Linden is proud to be the first community to submit their Municipal Public Access Plan to the DEP for approval,” said Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka. “I thank the DEP staff for their direction and assistance in helping us reach our goal. This plan will complement our 35-acre forested wetlands nature preserve by adding public access to the Rahway River.”
Bordered by the Arthur Kill and the Rahway River in southeastern Union County, industrialized Linden has developed a plan designed to improve public access and services at the Hawk Rise Sanctuary, an ecological preserve and wetland complex along the Rahway River.
The city plans to make enhancements such as restroom facilities, walkway extensions, and canoe and kayak launches using a Municipal Public Enhancement Fund paid into by developers of waterfront properties in other parts of the city.
The Public Access Rule gives municipalities the flexibility to establish these funds when development in a particular waterfront area would not provide access in a way that is consistent with their local vision or planning objectives. This may occur because the area is not appropriate due to safety and/or existing development constraints, such as areas used by industrial, shipping and/or warehousing facilities.
For grant consideration, project proposals must be submitted by 5 p.m. on June 6. Applicants that were awarded grants in the previous funding cycle are eligible for tasks not funded in previous grant awards. For more information and grant application, visit: www.state.nj.us/dep/cmp/access/mpapgrant.htm.
The public’s right to access tidal waters and their shorelines, embodied in the Public Trust Doctrine, has existed prior to the inception of the State of New Jersey and continues to this day. The Public Trust Doctrine is the principle that certain resources, in this case tidal waters and shorelines, are preserved for public use, and that the government is required to maintain them for the public’s reasonable use.
For more information on Public Access in New Jersey, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/cmp/access/index.htm