Infrastructure Important, But Other Factors Equally Vital

I was encouraged to see a recent editorial crediting county officials for their efforts in planning infrastructure needed to support the area's continuing growth. Water and sewer systems, roads, schools, and other public hardware are unquestionably essential to sustaining quality of life and meeting the demands of a growing population.

However, we need to recognize that infrastructure alone is not sufficient to ensure the kind of environment and community we seek for the future. Beyond infrastructure we need unwavering consistency in responsible land use practices and in the enforcement of laws (local, state, and federal) that apply to these activities.

Infrastructure can help reduce adverse impacts of development on natural resources, but no amount of engineering can, by itself, safeguard our vital environmental systems. Even worse, unwise engineering can actually compound these unwanted growth impacts.

Over the past decades coastal Georgians have witnessed a major shift in the scale and intensity of development, which demands the attention being given to providing and maintaining public infrastructure. But without comparable dedication to tracking and controlling the impacts of this development on our natural resources, we will surely suffer declining water quality, ecosystem productivity, and natural beauty. There are already troubling indications of such adverse trends.

The prospect of such decline is not only a threat to nature, but it also risks loss of property value, recreational amenities, and a wide range of business activities tied to natural resources - such as tourism, recreational fishing, and nature watching - that bring in millions of dollars annually, supporting thousands of jobs and families. If we are serious about responsible management of coastal Georgia's growth, we must devote unprecedented attention not only to infrastructure, but also to protecting our living resources, the "natural infrastructure" that makes this region so deeply cherished.

We urge public officials to expand their perspective to encompass all factors related to our community's well-being by considering the broadest possible implications of growth. This will require disciplined deliberation and unparalleled wisdom in reaching the many important decisions that protect the public interest.

Broadening the viewpoint of community leaders to include equal concern for protecting natural systems is essential to achieving the kind of future that our community deserves.

~ David Kyler, Director
Center for a Sustainable Coast
221 Mallory Street, Suite B
Saint Simons Island, GA 31522
Voice: 912.638.3612
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