Press Release | August 29, 2014

Conservation Groups Request Georgia Court to Enforce Buffer Ruling

Atlanta, GA—Conservation groups are requesting that a state court enforce its recent decision to extend protective buffers to all state waters in response to the Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) instructions that Georgia authorities ignore the Court’s ruling.

In an August 12th memo, EPD Director Judson Turner ordered local issuing authorities to disregard the Georgia Court of Appeals’ July 16th decision, which held that the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Act’s 25-foot water quality buffer provision applies to all state waters.

“The Court of Appeals eliminated confusion by clarifying that all state waters, from our mountain streams to our coastal marsh, are protected by buffers under existing law,” said Glenn Dowling, Executive Director of the Georgia River Network. “We are simply asking EPD to protect these vital resources while remaining accountable to the courts and responsible to the entire Georgia public they serve.” 

The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Georgia River Network and American Rivers, has filed a motion with the Georgia Court of Appeals as a result of the Director’s memo. To comply with the Court’s decision, the Director must withdraw his memo and instruct EPD employees and local authorities that all state waters have buffers, with limited exceptions.

“The Director has the clear authority to take immediate action and implement the Court’s decision,” said Bill Sapp of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Providing local authorities with additional guidance on how to measure buffers on different state waters will also help to consistently protect our waterways across Georgia.”

“We cannot afford to wait to restore these critical safeguards for Georgia’s water quality,” said Jenny Hoffner of American Rivers. “Georgia’s rivers, streams, and marsh have enjoyed buffer protections for years, and EPD should be doing everything in its power to continue protecting these wonderful waters.”

Read the Director’s memo here.


About Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.


About Georgia River Network:

Georgia River Network is a statewide river conservation organization that works to ensure a clean water legacy by engaging and empowering Georgians to protect, restore, and enjoy our rivers from the mountains to the coast.


About American Rivers:

American River is among the leading organizations working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®. American Rivers has more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide and offices in Washington D.C., across the country, including an office in the Atlanta metro region.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Bill Sapp

Senior Attorney specializing in wetlands and coastal issues

Phone: 404-521-9900