Two current legal issues the Center has recently initiated

By David Kyler
  • Letters of Permission (LOPs)

    The LOP issue came to our attention in the fall of 2010 when the Coastal Resources Division (CRD) of DNR granted Twentieth Century Fox approval for a temporary but significantly disruptive use of a shorefront area of Jekyll Island that was within the jurisdiction of the Shore Protection Act (SPA). This was done without any permit being applied for or issued. Not only is there no provision in the SPA for LOPs, but there wasn't any public notice about the activities being approved, and no chance for concerned citizens to comment on, or appeal, impending actions. On April 5, the Center's attorneys filed a petition seeking an injunction to stop the use of LOPs and a judgment declaring the practice illegal. It is expected that if this ruling is made, DNR will subsequently seek to establish new provisions in law that will allow LOPs. However, to establish such provisions, a public rulemaking process would be required, enabling us to do as much as possible to ensure appropriate public notice and conditions limiting the use of LOPs, and a process for enforcing and, if necessary, legally appealing future LOPs.

    See also: Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island Summer 2011 Newsletter

  • Marsh Buffer Protection

    Under Georgia's Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act, all waters of the state must be protected with at least a 25-foot buffer of undisturbed land left in its natural condition. Anyone seeking to alter the buffer must apply for a variance, which may be granted by the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of DNR. However, we have noted instances in which the EPD is making it easier to ask forgiveness rather than permission. In one recent situation, a bulkhead was built in the buffer without a permit, but the "solution" did not require the removal of the bulkhead and the restoration of the destroyed buffer area. Rather, the agency essentially permitted the violation after the fact, and the only consequence for the violator was a relatively small increase in the cost of the project. EPD's issuance of a "consent order" in this situation required only a fine and some unspecified remediation of an area other than the location where damage actually occurred. In response, on March 18 our attorneys filed a Petition for a Hearing on a Marsh Buffer Violation. Our action seeks to produce a judicial finding that consent orders may not be used by EPD to allow defacto after-the-fact approval of activities that were in violation of the E&S law's requirement for a buffer along all "waters of the state," including marshes. If this case is resolved to achieve that goal, we believe that future violations of the marsh buffer will be less extreme and less frequent. We expect that EPD, local governments, and property owners will take their legal obligation to honor the buffer more seriously as a result of this case. These legal actions are well justified, serving as compelling examples of the importance of the Center's work to the interests of current and future citizens of coastal Georgia.

These legal actions are well justified, serving as compelling examples of the importance of the Center's work to the interests of current and future citizens of coastal Georgia. Complementing such enforcement activities are valuable Center efforts to educate and engage the public on a wide range of inter-related issues, including harbor deepening, alternative energy implementation, coastal zone management, climate change, barrier island protection, water management, and the control and monitoring of coastal development.

David Kyler, Executive Director
Center for a Sustainable Coast.

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