ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS APPEAL PERMITTING OF 350-FOOT LONG ROCK GROIN ON SEA ISLAND, GEORGIA

On Monday, January 11, 2016, the Surfrider Foundation and the Altamaha Riverkeeper, represented by GreenLaw, and One Hundred Miles, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, filed administrative appeals challenging the Georgia Shore Protection Committee's recent decision to permit a 350-foot long rock groin (with a 120-foot T-shaped head) on Sea Island, Georgia.

The Committee's permit would also allow the applicant, Sea Island Acquisition, LLC, to engage in dredge and fill and other shoreline development along the pristine Sea Island Spit.

The groups allege that the project would exacerbate erosion of this barrier island, with devastating impacts on wildlife that call the Spit home, including threatened and endangered sea turtles and shore birds.

The groin would also alter the natural sand-sharing system in the area, which is critical to the existence of the Spit andproper functioning of Gould's Inlet, two popular destinations for surfers, kayakers, and stand-up paddlers.

"This project is clearly not in the public interest, and the applicant failed to consider any alternatives which do not include placement of a giant rock groin on the beach, which contravenes Georgia's Shore Protection Act," says Surfrider Foundation Legal Associate Staley Prom. "Surfrider Foundation has an interest in ensuring proper application and enforcement of the Georgia Shore Protection Act."

"This is a meaningful place for Georgia's coastal enthusiasts, including many members of Surfrider Foundation's Georgia Chapter, who kayak, surf, and stand up paddle in Gould's Inlet along the Sea Island Spit," says Prom. "We are seeking to ensure that this special place is protected from the project."

"The lack of massive development on Georgia's coast is treasured by Georgians and many others from all over the country. Sea Island's proposed groin, that protects and benefits so few and that will destroy a precious piece of our coastline, is short-sighted and self-serving," said Jen Hilburn, Altamaha Riverkeeper.

"Allowing Sea Island's groin to be built will set a dangerous precedent for those who enjoy Georgia's unique coastal environment. Given the overwhelming evidence of harm caused by Sea Island's current groins, it will be very difficult for the state to deny future such proposals. In an era of sea level rise that is expected to escalate, we may soon see a walling in of the Georgia coast if this project is allowed to proceed," stated GreenLaw Legal Director Steve Caley, who has been fighting to save the Sea Island Spit for the past two years.

"A new groin to accommodate the construction of eight new homes on the Sea Island spit would pose a significant risk to both wildlife and surrounding communities that depend on a healthy shoreline— a risk that the State of Georgia should not be willing to take," said One Hundred Miles Executive Director Megan Desrosiers. "Our successful appeal of this permit will ensure that our sand-sharing system, wildlife habitat, and recreational beaches on Sea Island and St. Simons Island will remain intact for generations to come."

"Interrupting the natural movement of shared sand not only puts shoreline health at risk for nearby communities, it poses a threat to the Spit's immense ecological value," said SELC Senior Attorney Bill Sapp. "We ask that the Committee reconsider its decision, as we do not want to see Georgia's coastline jeopardized by the use of groins and other destructive beach hardening projects."

ABOUT THE GROUPS

GreenLaw is a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, which takes legal action in defense of our environment. GreenLaw Legal Director Steve Caley represents petitioners in this appeal.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization whose mission is the protection and enjoyment of our ocean, waves, and beaches. Surfrider Foundation's Georgia Chapter is one of 84 Chapters located around the United States, with approximately 900 members and supporters in the state. The Georgia Chapter is focused on supporting conservation and sustainable use of Georgia's coastal resources. 

The Altamaha Riverkeeper is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, defense, and restoration of the Altamaha River — Georgia's largest river — and the river's watershed. The group's 1,200 members use, recreate, work and reside near, the waters, adjacent habitat, and dependent aquatic life and wildlife in and along the Altamaha River watershed. 

One Hundred Miles is a coastal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and enhancing the 100-mile Georgia coast. One Hundred Miles seeks to bring statewide attention to the opportunities and challenges facing Georgia's unique coast.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.