Surfrider Foundation Georgia Chapter opposes the proposed changes to the Shoreline Protection Act in HB 271. The current version of the bill [see History/Status below]:
1. Reduces the set back, which requires structures and uses to be sited inland a minimum distance from a specific shoreline feature, to an unreasonably short distance of 25 feet not based on any scientific or other findings. The proposed change impacts dunes, beaches and other critical components of Georgia’s sand sharing system and should extend to 50 fee behind dunes and manmade structures and expand to 150 feet where there is only an ordinary high water mark from which to measure. [The bill passed on 3/3/2017 by the House and sent to the Senate retained the 25 foot jurisdictional limit but added, for property owned by the state, a 100 foot limit in the absence of any sand dune or structure.]
2. Changes the definition of “sand dune” in an adverse manner. The proposed definition makes it easier for beachfront property owners to landscape sand dunes as part of their own private property. This change in definition could also result in the loss of sand dunes up and down our coast and degrade the quality of the essential dune system that protects our coast. [The bill passed on 3/3/2017 by the House and sent to the Senate removed the unfavorable amendment to the definition of “sand dune.”]
3. Weakens the permitting system by allowing individual commissioners to issue permits for “minor activities” including alterations of up to one-third of a parcel and adding elevated crosswalks across sand dunes.
Private landowners should not have the right to unilaterally act in a manner that negatively impacts coastlines or public rights to the beach. The State of Georgia needs to adopt a reasonable approach that balances these important public and private rights.