Proposed changes to New Jersey coastal regulations aimed at removing red tape and simplifying permitting are catching heat from environmentalists.

The proposed changes consolidate the Coastal Permit Program Rules and the Coastal Zone Management rules into a single 1,055-page document.

 Critics, including land-use lawyer Bill Potter, are most worried about what was left out of the proposal

“Climate change should be in the mind of every regulatory agency that deals with the environment,” Potter said.  

"I could not, on first reading at least, find any discussion of how the state is going to be prepared for climate change and sea level rise. It simply is not there,” said Potter, who represents clients in Ocean County fighting to keep the state from depositing dredge spoils (materials left over from dredging projects) near their properties. 

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Lawrence Hajna said the proposed changes are being misconstrued by critics. The update was never meant to set new climate change or adaptation policy, but simply streamline a tangle of existing permitting procedures, he said.

The changes would allow building of new marinas in coastal areas and expanding existing facilities to include restaurants.  

Hajna said the change is an effort to help the recreational boating industry, which was hard hit by Superstorm Sandy.

“Their businesses struggle in the off-season, what we're doing is giving them an opportunity to extend their seasons, to make some money in the off-season,” Hajna said.

The changes would allow for automated permitting for reconstruction of bulkheads, and building piers, docks, pilings, and boat lifts in man-made lagoons. 

They also streamline the process for obtaining dredging permits, and allow the same permitting process currently used for single-family homes to be used for two homes or a duplex.

The regulations are open for public comment on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection website through Aug. 1.