House passes strengthened marsh buffer bill

The Georgia House on Thursday unanimously approved a revised bill that re-establishes a 25-foot buffer around the state’s marshes.

Senate Bill 101, which passed 164-0, was amended in the House to give the state power to review projects that gain federal permits. More importantly to environmentalists, however, is that lawmakers have received a promise from the state’s Environmental Protection Division to prevent property owners from building make-shift bulkheads along the marsh.

“SB 101 as presented exempted from the 25 foot buffer protection anytime there was a shore stabilization project, such as a bulkhead,” Rep. Jeff Jones, R-Brunswick, said. “In my mind and the mind of others this was unacceptable.”

The commitment from EPD to write regulations preventing that, however, made the bill acceptable.

Because it was amended in the House, however, the bill must still go back to the Senate for consideration.

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Neill Herring, long-time lobbyist for the Sierra Club, said the House’s action made clear Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge and Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, “determined the protection of the marsh was more important than the administration and EPD did, apparently.”

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