A bill that guts the state's long-standing Shore Protection Act (SPA)
−whose primary purpose is to preserve a vital public resource called the "sand sharing system"−was rammed through Georgia's House of Representatives in near record time. Introduced by Rep. Don Hogan (R - St. Simons Island) and aptly called the "Shore Destruction Bill" by critics, House Bill 445 was immediately given a hearing in the Natural Resources Committee, where, without allowing for public comment, it was quickly voted out of committee along party lines. It then cruised through the House Rules Committee, and, the following day, won majority approval by the House of Representatives. The fast-tracked bill now goes to the Senate, where it must be defeated for the sake of Georgia's coast
What does this attack on the SPA mean?
First and foremost, HB 445 (underlined sections indicate proposed changes to the SPA) reduces the jurisdiction of the SPA to a mere 25 feet from ordinary high water, weakening protection of the dunes and sand sharing system, and allowing development dangerously close to the ocean.
Second, it exempts from the SPA's authority oceanfront lots being marketed by the Sea Island Company along a fragile stretch of land known as "the Spit." This brazen provision is antithetical to the purpose of the SPA, for it disrupts the sand-sharing system the SPA is supposed to preserve by sanctioning the Sea Island Company's construction of a large, sand-hoarding feature called a "groin," which runs perpendicular to the beach. Sand that would normally flow southward toward St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island will be trapped by the groin, fattening the beach along the multi-million dollar lots to be sold by the Sea Island Company while robbing sand from neighboring beaches.
Click here to read a Letter to the Editor on HB445 by David Kyler, Executive Director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast.
How does HB 445 affect Jekyll Island?
HB 445 removes from the SPA's jurisdiction the vast majority of Jekyll's iconic section of wide-open beachfront land between Shell Road and the beachfront park just south of the Holiday Inn. Currently, the SPA's jurisdictional line in that area runs along Beachview Drive; HB 445 would place the line at just 25 feet from the landward-most dunes.
The bill sets a dangerous precedent by removing a beachfront development project from the SPA's jurisdiction. If the politically-connected Sea Island Company can scam an exemption from the SPA, surely other deep-pocketed developers might do the same for oceanfront land elsewhere along Georgia's coast, particularly Jekyll Island.
How can you help?
Call or email as many members of theSenate Natural Resources and Environment Committee that you have time for and simply tell them that HB 445 is bad for Georgia's coast and should not be passed out of committee.The bill could be discussed by the committee as early as Tuesday, March 12, so please take action right away.
r State Senator's office (Type in your zip code. Do not use 'current location' option.) and urge him/her to vote "no" on HB 445 in case the Natural Resources Committee sends the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
you will reach an aide who will note your objection to HB 445 but will most li
kely not pass along your reasons for opposing the bill. If you want to state your objections, you might consider saying:
- The bill decreases protection of the sand-sharing system at a time when rising sea levels and powerful coastal storms are showing that protection should be increased.
- By reducing the SPA's jurisdiction to a mere 25 feet from mean high tide, the bill would facilitate development of increasingly fragile oceanfront land threatened by storm events and sea level rise.
- Legislators should NOT be supporting a bill that is largely a gift to the influential Sea Island Company, which aims to profit by building a groin to trap sand on the beach to benefit a controversial development project while starving the sand-sharing system on the down-drift side of the groin.
If you would rather email the committee's members than call them, please do so one at a time, the reason being that bulk emails have less impact than individualized ones.