Appeals hearing concludes on proposed Sea Island groin
Attorneys presented nearly four hours of closing arguments this week in a state appeals hearing over a proposed groin on Georgia’s Sea Island.
Sea Island Acquisition LLC is seeking to construct a 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 of ecologically-sensitive land on the southern end of the island.
Despite public concern and opposition to the project from local residents, conservation groups, elected officials and wildlife officials, the Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Marshland and Shore Protection Committee granted a Shore Protection Act Permit to Sea Island Acquisition LLC in December for construction of the groin.
SELC (representing One Hundred Miles) and GreenLaw (representing Altamaha Riverkeeper and Surfrider Foundation) filed petitions challenging the state panel’s approval. Under the Shore Protection Act, the groups argued that the groin would worsen shoreline erosion in Gould’s inlet by disrupting the natural sand-sharing system, and that Sea Island Acquisition LLC did not consider reasonable or viable alternatives.
The spit also serves as key habitat for endangered sea turtles and nesting areas for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle.
In a document prepared by the Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources at Sea Island Acquisition’s request, DNR sea turtle program coordinator Mark Dodd recommended that the permit be denied due to the harm the groin would have on sea turtle nesting habitat. According to testimony, Dodd’s recommendations were omitted from the final report.
The hearing also included a visit to the proposed groin site, located 1,200 feet south of an existing groin built in 1991, the last groin approved in Georgia. Aerial photos show visible shoreline erosion in areas south of the structure.
The company is also seeking a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit, which has not yet been granted or denied.
Administrative Law Judge Kristin Miller said this week she will need 30 days to review the transcript of the closing arguments, along with the testimony and evidence presented in the hearing, before making a ruling.
“As communities like Tybee are taking proactive steps in long-term planning for the impacts of sea level rise, it’s essential that our state agencies consider how today’s development decisions impact the future,” said Staff Attorney Megan Hinkle. “Allowing the project to move forward puts Georgia’s coast and its immense ecological value at risk.”
The groin is proposed for the southern end of Sea Island, shown here.