On April 22, Judson Turner, director of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, issued a memorandum that changes how the agency and local government development authorities are to measure vegetated buffer requirements along coastal marshland.
The Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act requires a 25 foot vegetated buffer adjacent to waters of the state, in which no development or impervious surfaces may be located.
Since at least 2004, EPD has by policy measured the buffer along marshes from the jurisdictional line set by the Coastal Marshland Protection Act. With the policy change, the buffer zone will now be measured from the point of wrested vegetation, or the point at which wave or tidal action creates a sharp line between water flow and growing vegetation.
Environmental organizations already have commented that the policy change will effectively eliminate the buffer requirement along marshes and have vowed to seek a reversal of the policy change through legislation, litigation, or otherwise.
Director Turner stated publicly that the intention of the policy change is to ease the burden on local development authorities, which have reported difficulties in implementing the prior policy.