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Tuesday, June 11, 2024 | Back issues
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Supreme Court Rules For Delaware In River Dispute

WASHINGTON (CN) - The nation's highest court ruled for Delaware in its dispute with New Jersey over river rights, voting 6-2 to let Delaware block New Jersey's plan to build a $600 million gas-processing plant on the Jersey side of the Delaware River.

The proposed British Petroleum plant in Logan Township, N.J., would have included a 2,000-foot docking pier that extended into the river.

Under a 1934 Supreme Court decision, Delaware owns the riverbed from its own banks to the low-water mark on the Jersey side. New Jersey argued that it had authority to build the pier under a 1905 compact protecting fishing rights, which provided that "each state may, on its own side of the river continue to exercise riparian jurisdiction of every kind and nature."

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control refused to let BP build the plant, saying it constituted an "offshore bulk product transfer facility" and a "heavy industry use" prohibited by Delaware's Coastal Zone Act.

The justices concluded that the states had overlapping authority to regulate structures that jut from the Jersey shore into the Delaware-owned river.

Though Delaware cannot "impede ordinary and usual exercises of the right of riparian owners to wharf out from New Jersey's short," they said Delaware could block the BP plant because the project "goes well beyond the ordinary or usual."

Justices Scalia and Alito dissented, and Justice Breyer did not take part in the decision.

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