Jekyll Island:Efficiency vs. Oversight
UPDATE 4/28/17: With your help we spoke out about our concerns and urged the Shore Protection Committee (SPC) to deny the permit unless appropriate changes were made.
Following the SPC meeting on April 28, 2017 we’re happy to say that your voices were heard! We appreciate the committee and CRD’s thoughtful deliberation and applaud their decision to deny the permit as submitted. While the JIA can resubmit the permit at a future date, substantial changes will have the opportunity to undergo a public comment period. That’s great news for all of us who love Jekyll Island and want to see it protected for generations to come.
What’s At Stake
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. Earlier this year, JIA applied for a Shore Protection Act (SPA) permit from the Coastal Resources Division to conduct activities along their beach and dunes. 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.
We recommended the permit be DENIED unless the following changes were 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.