EPD celebrates Earth Day – by easing restrictions on development on Georgia coast

The state Environmental Protection Division has a unique way of celebrating Earth Day.

The department announced a revision of regulations that environmentalists say will greatly increase development along the Georgia coastline.

This explanatory note comes from Neil Herring of the Sierra Club:

Under the [old] policy, which was promulgated by the biologist EPD Director Dr. Carol Couch, a line was drawn where the salt marsh reaches the “hill,” the more or less dry ground, determined by the presence of plants that will grow at that point but not in the marsh.

From that line, to another line, 25 feet inland from the first appearance of plants from that list, was the salt marsh buffer, in which it was unlawful to remove, by uprooting, any vegetation, or building anything that would cover the ground in that 25 foot wide buffer.

Now, presumably a property owner can bulldoze right up to the salt grass (spartina) and build lovely structures that loom over it

.It’s rather thick, but read the new memo from Judson Turner, executive director of the state EPD:

“The irony is not lost on the environmental community that this proposal was issued on Earth Day,” says Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, executive director of GreenLaw, an environmental law firm.

The campaign of Jason Carter, the Democratic candidate for governor, has quickly jumped on the change. From the campaign:

This is a dramatic policy reversal that overturns decades of stewardship of Georgia’s coasts,” Carter said. “Once they have been destroyed, there’s no going back. Gov. Deal needs to explain why those charged with conserving Georgia's precious natural resources are instead acting unilaterally to harm them.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.