The Shore Protection Committee on Friday, tabled a Beachfront Shoreline Stewardship general permit application from the Jekyll Island Authority to the next committee or special called meeting, saying more documentation is needed.
“We are in a certain position for the state of Georgia,” said Shore Protection Committee member, Henry Morgan. “When I read the (Georgia) code, section 12-5-238, it said there would be construction documents and that site plans must be included. I didn’t get any of that. Without that, I can’t rule. I don’t think it’s outside the bounds to have a survey of the island.”
The Georgia Shore Protection Act sets up the citizen-based committee to approve or deny permits for activities within the beaches and dunes. Since Georgia’s beaches and dunes are officially public lands, they are managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division. The CRD staff accepts public comments on permit applications, processes them, and makes recommendations to the committee.
In the Jekyll Island Authority permit case on Friday, DNR staff recommended approval with conditions. The permit in question would allow the authority to conduct certain activities in the shore protection jurisdiction without having to seek individual permits for each activity.
The committee first denied the permit, and then in a second motion, gave the authority another opportunity to come back with additional information.
When asked to respond to Morgan’s statement that the authority did not include all the necessary documents with the application, Ben Carswell, the Jekyll Island Authority’s director of conservation said after the meeting that the authority submitted the documentation as advised.
“I am disappointed in this morning’s result because, as an environmental professional, I believe there are impacts to the natural environment — ongoing and increasing with visitation — that the JIA will be ill-equipped to manage without the (permit) that we proposed,” Carswell stated. “Likewise, opportunities for environmental restoration and enhancement will be less likely to be accomplished. Beneficial stewardship activities should be facilitated and incentivized, especially in a place that is loved and visited by so many. Today, they are not.”
The authority’s general permit consisted of two main categories, natural resource management — including vegetative and localized sand management, public access management that would include signage, management — and maintenance of existing public use facilities, marine debris and unauthorized structure removal.
The public notice from the Shore Protection Committee ran from March 15, 2017 through April 14, 2017. There were 45 public comments received during the notice and four received after the comment period ended.
Some of the concerns expressed Friday during the meeting were that the authority’s beach management plan was too vague and that the authority was deviating from its own conservation plan.
Mindy Egan, with the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, spoke during the meeting against the permit’s approval.
Egan addressed said the authority’s application is fundamentally flawed and should be rejected because it is disregarding it’s own professionally developed conservation plan that citizens and scientists and publicly vetted six years ago.
Egan said plan calls for establishing a Beach Management Working Group to develop a comprehensive beach management plan for the island.
She said if the motivation for the permit request was driven by the conservation plan, the JIA conservation team should have fulfilled the mandate to develop, in the short-term, a beach management plan to provide the necessary foundation for carrying out the kind of activities referred to in the permit.
Egan added the notion of a general permit is troubling because of its precedent-setting nature.
Alice Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation with One Hundred Miles also asked the committee to deny the permit.
“We are very pleased that the SPA committee denied the permit today,” Keyes said in a statement following the meeting. “JIA is not above the law. So many people love and value Jekyll Island State Park, it is imperative that the JIA provide details about the practices they implement affecting our public resources.”
David Kyler of the Center for a Sustainable Coast also addressed the committee.
Following the committee’s vote on the authority’s application, Kyler questioned why the application was not as thorough as it should have been and echoed Egan’s remarks that the Authority is deviating from its own conservation plan.
“They are dropping the ball if they don’t go by their own conservation plan,” Kyler said after the meeting.