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New Jersey’s Public Trust Doctrine granting the public access to coastal waterways is now state law, thanks to a bill signing Friday afternoon by Gov. Phil Murphy.

A-4221 and S-1074 require the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to provide public access “to the greatest extent practicable,” codifying what had been state regulations for several years.

“New Jersey’s shoreline and coastal communities are some of our state’s greatest treasures,” Murphy said in a press release. “By strengthening the public’s right to access our beaches, we are ensuring that all New Jersey residents and visitors can enjoy our beautiful shore this summer and for generations to come.”

Before sending the measure to Murphy, lawmakers adopted two amendments NJBIA had advocated for. One exempts relatively minor permits from the requirement to study and provide public access, allowing businesses to do things like replace a bulkhead without going through the extra steps.  The other lessened the standard when public access is needed providing for more flexibility in implementing the doctrine.

The law also requires that action taken by DEP pursuant to those laws is consistent with the public trust doctrine, the governor’s press release says requires DEP to ensure that any projects completed utilizing public funding is consistent with the public trust doctrine.

“Enjoying the shore is one of the best parts of life in New Jersey. As the trustee of the natural resources of the state, I consider it a priority to ensure open and equal access to New Jersey’s treasured coastlines for all of our residents,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. “I look forward to working with the land use and coastal planning experts at DEP to craft the regulations to implement this important legislation.”