Originally posted at Surfrider.org on January 11, 2016.
Today, the Surfrider Foundation, on behalf of its Georgia Chapter, and the Altamaha Riverkeeper, filed an administrative appeal challenging the Georgia Shore Protection Committee’s decision to permit a permanent 350-foot long rock groin (with a 120-foot T-shaped head) on Sea Island, in southeast Georgia. The Committee’s permit would also allow applicant Sea Island Acquisition, LLC to engage in dredge and fill and other shoreline development along the pristine Sea Island Spit, including placement of a 200 square foot layer of rock on the landward end of the groin. Surfrider Foundation and the Riverkeeper previously entered into a settlement agreement last year with Sea Island Acquisitions, who wanted to develop the Spit, whereby 8 lots could be developed, but the 90% of remaining property must be preserved and undeveloped.
Surfrider Foundation and Altamaha Riverkeeper allege that this new project would exacerbate erosion of this already highly erosive coastal barrier island, with devastating impacts. The 350-foot long groin (6 foot high) would be perpendicular to the shore, with a 120-foot T-shaped head running parallel to the coast. Two previously installed groins have had severe erosion impacts to the south end of the Spit. This third would be too much. The wildlife that call the Spit home, including threatened and endangered sea turtles and birds, will be put at risk. The groin will also alter the natural sand sharing dynamic in the area, critical to the existence of the Spit and functioning of the adjacent Gould’s Inlet which serves as an excellent and popular spot for surfers, kayakers, and stand-up paddlers. Under Georgia law, the Shore Protection Committee is required to consider whether projects are in the public interest, in determining whether to issue a permit. Here, permitting a third groin, is clearly not in the public interest.
Sea Island Acquisition also failed to consider reasonable alternatives that do not include constructing a rock groin or rock revetment along the beach, which contravenes Georgia’s Shore Protection Act. This is a meaningful place for all of Georgia’s coastal enthusiasts, including many members of Surfrider Foundation’s Georgia Chapter, who regularly kayak, surf, and Stand Up Paddle in Gould’s Inlet along the Sea Island Spit. Surfrider Foundation has an interest in ensuring proper application and enforcement of the Georgia Shore Protection Act, such that no project goes against the public interest, and all reasonable alternatives are considered. Surfrider Foundation’s Georgia Chapter seeks to ensure that this special place is protected from this ill-conceived and poorly vetted project.
Petitioners are generously represented by attorney Steve Caley at GreenLaw. GreenLaw is a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, which takes legal action in defense of our environment.