Changes To The Shore Protection Act
During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Georgia General Assembly will decide whether or not to make amendments to the Shore Protection Act.
House Bill 445, introduced by Rep. Don Hogan (R-179), seeks to amend the Shore Protection Act. The Shore Protection Act (SPA) became law in 1979 to ensure that the sand sharing system was protected from adverse impacts from human activity. The sand sharing system is the network of dunes, beaches, shoals and sandbars. This network is what protects the barrier islands from storms, erosion and corresponding property loss or damage. We believe that rigorous application and coordination of the Shoreline Protection Act is critical to preserving the coast’s ecological integrity as human activity, including tourism and recreation, expands.
This bill seeks to redefine and clarify the jurisdictional line by using three methods:
1) A line 25 feet landward of the ordinary high water mark on private land and 100 feet landward of the ordinary high water mark on state-owned land. This method would be used when there is an eroding shoreline and no dune field present at the upland sand sharing interface.
2) A line 25 feet landward on private and public land from the landward most toe of the most landward sand dunes. This method would be used when there is an existing dune field at the upland/sand sharing system interface.
3) A line 25 feet landward on private and 100 feet on state land (Jekyll Island) from the crest of a visible and functional shoreline or stabilization structure. This method would be used when there is a rock revetment, bulkhead or seawall at the upland, sand sharing system interface.
The Georgia Conservancy has worked closely and effectively with legislators and the State Department of Natural Resources during the last couple of years to address the Shore Protection Act to ensure efficient and clear management of the jurisdictional line.
We are in full support of changing the manner in which the jurisdictional lines are measured. We do, however, have concerns relating to the exemption included in lines 84-88. This exemption is of significant concern to Georgia Conservancy in that it appears to not only exempt a current construction project, but will set a dangerous precedent which may be used by other landowners to exempt their projects up and down the coast.
Since its inception, the Shore Protection Act has been relatively free of such preferential treatment provided in this exemption. We hope that we can achieve the necessary management changes to this Act, while preserving Georgia’s strong history of shoreline protection.
As of March 7, 2019 House Bill 445 has passed the House and will now be heard by the Senate.
The Georgia Conservancy supports legislation clarifying and redefining the jurisdictional boundary of the SPA. We do, however, have concerns over an exemption that is included in the legislation for development on the upstream side of the Sea Island spit, and we believe that it sets a dangerous precedent for the future. We will continue to explore options with DNR, our partners and legislators to achieve a clear and efficient manner of measuring the jurisdictional line without exempting single construction projects on our precious coast.