Utility lines are pipes, cables, lines, conduits, or wires constructed for the transmission of gases, liquids, electrical energy or communications, including the support poles or towers. Utility lines do not include a towers or poles that only transmit waves through the air such as radio, television, or telephone towers.
Utility line projects may result in impacts to “special areas” that are regulated by the Department. Therefore, it is important to closely examine a proposed project relative to the sensitive areas on site. Special areas can be rudimentarily determined using the Department’s online mapping service, NJ-GeoWeb. Construction activities associated with utility lines may require multiple approvals from the Division, depending on the special areas impacted by the project. Special areas within your project site may also affect the type of authorization required. Therefore, it is important to closely examine a proposed activity relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted.
The above tabs provide additional information on permit requirements relating to utility line projects. For impacts to streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, flood plains, flood ways, riparian zones, please see the Flood Hazard tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please see the Coastal tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, see the Freshwater Wetlands tab. Information on Tidelands can be found by selecting the Tidelands tab.
The maintenance or construction of utility lines within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit or FWW Transition Area waiver. Several FWW General Permits (GP) are available for these types of activities.
GP1-Maintenance and repair of existing features
May be obtained if you have an existing utility line and are conducting repairs or maintenance to it and not increasing disturbances to freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open waters.
GP2-Underground utility lines
May be obtained if you are installing an underground utility line such as a gas pipe, sewer pipe, or underground electric line across freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open waters and disturbing no more than 0.5 acres of those features. In addition, certain above ground components, such as man holes, gas meters and valves may be permitted under a GP2. Also, any permanent disturbance over 0.1 acres to wetlands under a GP2 the applicant must provide mitigation.
GP21-Above ground utility lines – May be obtained if you are installing an above ground utility line such as a telephone, cable, or electric line across freshwater wetlands, transition areas, or State open waters and disturbing no more than 0.5 acres of those features. In addition, certain components beside the utility lines, such as poles, towers, and pad mounted transformers may be permitted under a GP21. Any permanent disturbance over 0.1 acres to wetlands under a GP21 the applicant is required to provide mitigation.
Transition Area Waivers (TAW)
TAW – Averaging Plan – May be obtained for impacts from utility lines in transition areas only, but not in combination with any General Permit which would increase the allowable amount of disturbance under that permit.
TAW – Linear Development- May be obtained for impacts from utility lines to transition areas only, but not in combination with any General Permit which would increase the allowable amount of disturbance under that permit. In addition, there must be no feasible alternative location for the linear development, including modifying the route, reducing the width, or utilizing areas not owned by the applicant. Also the proposed utility line must meet the definition of Linear Development under the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules, specifically, connecting two existing points with a new utility line.
If the utility line cannot comply with the criteria for the above listed GP’s and TAW’s, the applicant would need to apply for an Individual Permit. An IP application would need to include a description as to why the project cannot be minimized to satisfy the General Permit criteria described in the links above.
The construction of a utility line in a regulated area requires authorization of some type under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules. If the project is regulated pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7, then no separate Flood Hazard approval is required. In these instances, the applicant need only submit a report and plans demonstrating compliance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules as part of the coastal permit application.
Assuming there is no jurisdiction pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management Rules, authorization may be granted under six different permit-by-rule as described in N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.33-39. These six permit-by-rule cover a range of utility projects, including utility poles, open frame utility towers located outside a floodway, utility lines located beneath a regulated water that are constructed via directional drilling, utility lines located beneath existing pavement, utility lines attached to existing bridges or culverts, and underground utility lines located in a flood hazard area and outside the riparian zone.
In order to qualify for the permits-by-rule mentioned above, the requirements of the specific permit at N.J.A.C. 7:13- 7.33-39, as well as the requirements at N.J.A.C. 7:13-6.7, must be met. A utility line, refers to a line that transmits gases, oil, drinking water, wastewater, or electric conduits.
Please note that the construction of a stormwater system with a discharge in a regulated area would not qualify for any of these permits-by-rule. Please refer to the “Outfalls” tab in the “Common Project Types” section of this website for more information.
If the proposed project cannot qualify for the permits-by-rule, then a flood hazard area individual permit would be required in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:13-10, 11 and 12. N.J.A.C. 7:13-11.2(k) contains specific requirements for utility lines in a riparian zone.
Utility line construction within coastal areas generally requires a permit. The project may qualify for the below described exemptions or Permit-by-Rule. If the project does not meet the requirements of the aforementioned authorizations, a CAFRA, Coastal Wetlands, and/or Waterfront Development Individual Permit may be required.
Potentially applicable Exemptions:
Please see applicable rule for complete requirements.
- The maintenance, repair or replacement (including upgrade) of existing petroleum, sewage or natural gas pipelines within CAFRA jurisdiction which are located completely within paved roadways or paved, gravel, or cleared and maintained rights-of-way provided there is no increase in the associated sewer service area per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.2(b)2i.
- The construction, maintenance, repair or replacement (including upgrade) of water lines, telecommunication and cable television lines within CAFRA jurisdiction which are located completely within paved roadways or paved, gravel, or cleared and maintained rights-of-way per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.2(b)2iii.
- The maintenance and repair of existing stormwater management facilities within CAFRA jurisdiction which receive, store, convey or discharge stormwater runoff per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.2(b)2v.
- The construction of less than 1,200 linear feet of new stormwater pipes within CAFRA jurisdiction per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.2(b)2vi.
- The construction, maintenance, repair or replacement of power lines within CAFRA jurisdiction per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.2(b)2ix.
- The construction of a sanitary sewer, petroleum or natural gas pipeline or the extension of a sanitary sewer, petroleum, natural gas pipeline or stormwater management facility of less than 1,200 linear feet within CAFRA jurisdiction and located more than 150’ from the mean high water line or landward limit of beach or dune whichever is most landward per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.2(b)3i.
- The reconstruction, conversion, alteration or enlargement of any existing structure within Upland Waterfront Development jurisdiction and located more than 100’ landward of the mean high water line, provided no change in land use results, and the enlargement is not greater than 5,000 sq. ft per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.4(d)2.
- The minor addition to or changes in existing structures within Upland Waterfront Development jurisdiction that do not result in adverse environmental impacts to special areas, provided the addition is located in an existing cleared area of the site, is set back a minimum of 15’ from the mean high water line, and such changes do not result in a change in land use per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.4(d)3.
Potentially applicable Permit-by-rule (PBR):
PBR 8 – authorizes construction of a utility line, including cable (electric, television, or fiber optic), telecommunication, wastewater, petroleum, natural gas, or water, attached to a bridge or culvert, provided:
- No excavation, dredging or filling is undertaken within the water body over which the utility line crosses;
- The utility line is firmly attached to the existing bridge or culvert structure so that no part of the utility line, its encasement, or any attachment device extends above or below the existing bridge or culvert structure;
- If the crossing is a bridge, the utility line, its encasement, and all attachment devices must be located entirely above the elevation of the low chord of the superstructure and entirely below the elevation of the bridge surface;
- If the crossing is a culvert, the utility line, its encasement, and all attachment devices must be located entirely above the overt elevation of the culvert and entirely below the elevation of the top of the culvert;
- If the utility line is a pipeline that conveys any substance other than potable water, the utility line must be sufficiently encased within ductile iron or concrete to protect the utility line from damage from impact with floating debris during floods; and
- If there is a predominant direction of flow within the water body, the utility line must be attached to the downstream face of the bridge or culvert;
- The installation of the utility line has no adverse impacts to special areas as described at N.J.A.C. 7:7-9; and
- Construction equipment is operated from land, the top of the bridge or culvert, or from barges, and shall under no circumstances be allowed to enter the water body.
Please be advised, this PBR only applies to that portion of the utility line that will be constructed across the tidal waterway up to the mean high water line, provided a tidelands instrument has been obtained for the utility line. In addition, this PBR does not relieve the permittee from the obligation of obtaining all necessary approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7-4.8 for complete rule requirements.
Potentially applicable General Permits (GPs):
GP 12-authorizesthe landfall of utilities
GP 19 – authorizes the modification of existing electrical substations
Tidelands, also known as riparian lands, are all those lands now or formerly flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway; that is to say any land that is currently or was previously covered by tidal waters. The State of New Jersey, and therefore the people of New Jersey, owns all Tidelands except for those to which it has already sold its interest in the form of a riparian grant. It is important to note that the State generally does not own artificial waterways such as lagoons however, the State does claim those lands within a lagoon that were flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway which existed prior to the creation of the lagoon.
A utility line that is proposed in a tidelands area may require a tidelands license if the activities are taking place at or below the mean high water line of a tidal waterway or a tidelands grant if any portion of the activities are taking place in an area that is currently landward of the mean high water line but was, at some point, flowed by the tide.
A tidelands license is a short term revocable rental document to use tidelands generally for structures such as docks, bulkhead extensions, mooring piles, and other temporary structures as well as for dredging projects. Licenses are project specific and expire after a finite term ranging from one to ten years. Most licenses may be renewed.