(TRENTON) – Codifying the public’s right to enjoy New Jersey’s coastline as designated under the Public Trust Doctrine, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin and Andrew Zwicker was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday.
“Generation after generation of New Jersey families as well as visitors from out-of-state spends their summers vacationing at the shore,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Although resident access to our beaches is expressed through the Public Trust Doctrine, formally adopting this principle into law will ensure continued respect of residents’ rights to access New Jersey’s shoreline for recreational purposes and also allow us to further our environmental efforts to protect marine life and endangered species.”
The people’s ownership of the tidal waters and adjacent shorelines is held in trust by the State. The bill (A-4221), through the Department of Environmental Protection, directs the State to protect the public’s right of physical and visual access to public trust lands in its funding decisions and implementation of multiple State laws, including the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, the Wetlands Act of 1970, and the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, as well as New Jersey’s implementation of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.
“As the state continues to take necessary steps to protect our coastal environment, we have to make sure that the decisions we make in trying to protect our coastline do not come between or inhibit a resident’s right to take part in shore activities or simply enjoy the view,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “We can protect our tidal waters, our marine life and still preserve the beautiful beaches and shore communities for which New Jersey is best known.”
Under the bill, the DEP is required to ensure that any approval, permit, administrative order, or consent decree issued, or other action taken, by the DEP pursuant to the above-cited laws or any other law is consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine.
The landmark 1821 New Jersey Supreme Court Case, Arnold v. Mundy further supported the Public Trust Doctrine reinforced by the Magna Carta and Declaration of Independence, by establishing that New Jersey’s tidal waters be applied under the public trust doctrine, and belonged to the state for public use.
The bill recently cleared the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, of which Pinkin is chair, and now heads to Speaker for further consideration.