EPD Revises Marshland Buffer Policy: The 25-Foot Buffer Will Now Be Recognized Only if a Line of “Wrested Vegetation” Exists


On April 22, 2014, Georgia EPD Director Judson Turner issued a new policy for determining how the buffers required under the Georgia Erosion and Sediment Control Act (“E&SA”) will be delineated along coastal marshlands. The new policy is that a 25-foot buffer will be recognized only along waterbodies that have a “bank” and a line of “wrested vegetation,” i.e., a point where vegetation has been removed from the bank by wave or tidal action.

The new policy follows directly from the text of the Georgia E&SA, which establishes a 25-foot buffer within which land-disturbing activities are prohibited. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-6(b)(15)(A). The statute provides for the buffer to be measured along the bank of the waterbody from the point where vegetation has been wrested by normal stream flow or wave action. The new policy rescinds a 2004 EPD interpretation stating that buffers surrounding coastal marshlands would be measured, not from the point of wrested vegetation, but from the jurisdictional line established by the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act (“CMPA”). The change in policy was necessary because there is no basis in the Georgia E&SA for using the CMPA jurisdictional line to measure buffers.

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