SELC, partners urge Corps to deny federal permit for Sea Island groin

The southern end of Sea Island, Georgia is made up of a narrow spit of shifting sand.  (© Megan Huynh/SELC)

SELC and partners continue to oppose a federal permit to construct a third coastal barrier wall on Georgia’s Sea Island, especially in light of significant damage to the island as a result of two major hurricanes that pummeled the Georgia coast in recent years.

In addition to two existing structures, Sea Island Acquisition, LLC is seeking to construct a new 350-foot-long groin—a wall constructed perpendicular to the beach that traps shifting sand—to create 1,200 feet of new beach for eight luxury lots on a narrow spit on the southern end of Sea Island. The project is opposed by numerous environmental organizations, coastal communities, residents of Sea Island, and state and federal agencies.

Washed Out

An aerial view of the damage on the Sea Island spit following Hurricane Irma in September 2017 shows a substantial overwash of sand over the area slated for eight luxury lots. @NOAA

In comments submitted last week to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of One Hundred Miles, Altamaha Riverkeeper, and the Surfrider Foundation, SELC makes the case that like the existing groins, the proposed groin will continue to cause significant erosion to the Sea Island spit, which serves as key habitat and nesting areas for several species of threatened and endangered sea turtles and shorebirds.

The comments also address the fact that the damage resulting from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017 to the portion of beach between the two existing groins demonstrates how ineffective these harmful structures are in the face of major storms.

The Corps’ own Coastal Engineering Manual describes groins as “probably the most misused and improperly designed of all coastal structures,” and notes that such coastal structures are “probably the most dramatic cause of man-induced coastal erosion.”

Although a Fulton County Superior Court denied our appeal challenging the state permit for the project in December 2016, SELC and partners will continue to monitor the federal permitting process.

Considering the havoc caused by Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, this ecologically-sensitive and important area should not be further destroyed by ill-advised, poorly planned development,” said SELC attorney Megan Huynh. “As the Georgia coast continues to rebuild while preparing for future storms, we ask that this permit be denied to prevent further, unnecessary damage to the Sea Island spit.”

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