Sea Island Spit Georgia

Georgia lawmakers look to change rules of beach development

As they have for several years, state lawmakers are again looking to amend The Shore Protection Act, which designates the extent of the state’s influence on private property near the beach.

House Bill 445, sponsored by Don Hogan (R-St. Simons island) proposes a 25-foot regulated zone between private beachfront development and either the high tide line on beaches without dunes or the landward reach of the sand dune where dunes exist. It also carves out an exemption for highly vulnerable oceanfront lots near a rock groin on the Sea Island Spit.

Environmentalists are concerned those same exemptions could also apply elsewhere on the coast where rock groins exist, such as on Tybee.

Currently the 40-year-old law defines the state’s jurisdiction by drawing a zigzag line connecting 20-foot native trees to each other and to shorefront buildings erected in 1979 or earlier.

Criticism of bill

Environmentalists, citing state-funded studies of coastal erosion, have argued for a jurisdictional area of as much as 150 feet to protect the beach-going public, the natural environment and private property owners. In 2017, a compromise was reached that allowed for a line drawn 100 feet above the high water mark on state-owned beaches but a 25-foot line where private property is involved. That bill ultimately failed, but the new bill retains those provisions.

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