Jekyll Island:Efficiency vs. Oversight
We love Jekyll Island. As the People’s Island, the nearest Far-Away Place, and Georgia’s only State Park on the beach, Jekyll is much of the reason many of us fell in love with Georgia’s coast in the first place. Whether for a conference, family vacation or a day trip, Jekyll offers access to coastal Georgia’s history, nature, and recreation for everyone.
Throughout the past three years, One Hundred Miles has worked with the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) to encourage greater public involvement in their redevelopment decisions. We’ve advocated for new developments to have minimal impacts on the island’s wildlife (particularly nesting sea turtles) and the quality of life for residents and visitors.
The Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) is a quasi-governmental organization that manages all activities on the island. The JIA has applied for a Shore Protection Act (SPA) permit from the Coastal Resources Division to conduct activities along the entirety of the beach and dune system. The SPA is one of the strongest tools we have to protect Georgia’s natural resources. Click here to read the application package.
While we understand the JIA’s interest in simplifying the process of conducting projects with the potential to enhance our beaches and natural resources, we are concerned that the permit application covers an area too broad to be adequately regulated, and that the permit application lacks details necessary to uphold the intent of the SPA.
Why we are concerned:
- The JIA is putting the cart before the horse by is proceeding with a permit application without the context of an updated conservation plan. Jekyll’s current conservation plan was adopted in 2011, and is to be updated every five years. The conservation plan was also developed before the adoption of the 2013 legislation that restructured how land use activities occur on the island. Before proceeding, we recommend that JIA update the conservation plan and include necessary details about planned activities that are currently absent from the permit application. It is an opportunity for JIA to build good will for the proposal by gathering recommendations from coastal experts who understand best management practices, and will give the public greater confidence in JIA’s plans.
- The scale of the area to be covered by this permit includes the entire Jekyll Island beach and dunes. Specific permit activities allowed under any general permit should include vicinity maps, including latitude and longitude coordinates of areas where the projects will take place. Currently, JIA’s application includes no details specifying where activities, major or minor, will occur.
- The permit application obscures “major” management activities with “minor” activities. Many of the activities JIA has requested to conduct under this permit will be considered minor and would enhance the island’s natural resources. However, some activities should be considered major because of the potential impact they can have on the beach, dunes, and sand sharing system. Specifically, the practice of localized sand management that refers to the removal and storage of sand as well as the restoration/enhancement of sand dunes, is especially problematic. Such major activities will require the use of heavy machinery and equipment, intensifying the negative impact on sand dunes that offer critical protection to the island and its wildlife. These types of activities should proceed through the issuance of an individual permit and should not be included as a minor activity.
What you can do:
1. Write to the Georgia Coastal Resources Division requesting the permit be improved. The JIA permit application is open for public review, and GA CRD is accepting comments through April 14.
Recommend the permit be DENIED unless the following changes are made:
- The permit must remove all reference to major activities that, per the Shore Protection Act, should require an individual permit. Such activities include the collection and banking of sand for future use, and any reference to “sand banks.”
- The wide-scale scope of the permit application must be narrowed to include specific locations where the activities will take place. The permit should also include vicinity maps, including latitude and longitude coordinates of the projects to be undertaken. This is especially important and quite feasible in the areas where the JIA plans to maintain paths and walkways for public access to the beaches.
- The permit application should incorporate, or at the very least reference, specific national and state best management practices. These will provide regulators and the public a more thorough understanding about how the activities in the permit will be carried out. Currently, the case studies offered in the application package are not sufficient documentation of methods that are approved and considered to have minimal impact.
Send your comments in writing by the close of business on April 14 to:
Mr. Karl Burgess
Department of Natural Resources
One Conservation Way
Brunswick, Georgia, 31520
2. Attend the public meeting and deliver your comments in person. On April 28, at 9:30 am, the Shore Protection Committee will review the permit application, learn recommendations from GA CRD staff, and vote to approve or deny the permit.
Your comments and suggestions matter! Join One Hundred Miles staff and encourage the GA CRD and the Shore Protection Committee to make the changes to the permit necessary to protect Jekyll Island for generations to come. Stay tuned to this page for more information about how you can make your voice heard.