The state Department of Natural Resources’ Shore Protection Committee is mulling over a proposal from the Jekyll Island Authority for a kind of blanket permit the JIA considers necessary to efficiently handle maintenance around the island, but whether the JIA gets approval to do that work is not a settled matter.
Ben Carswell, the JIA director of conservation, presented a proposal at the Shore Protection Committee meeting last week detailing some of the specifics — basically, the authority is looking for a permit under the Shore Protection Act “that would address some challenges that we’ve been dealing with over the past five years as we’re implementing our conservation program on Jekyll Island,” Carswell said. “So, small-scale, stewardship-oriented projects — and by stewardship-oriented, I mean projects that deal with protection of natural resources, and the provision and maintenance of public access — values that I understand are associated closely with the intent of the Shore Protection Act.”
Conservation group One Hundred Miles sent the committee a letter ahead of the presentation, urging its members to move with caution.
“While we understand JIA’s interest in simplifying the process of conducting projects that have the potential to enhance natural assets of our beach systems, we are concerned that the wide-scale scope of their request and lack of details for how the projects will be conducted undermines the intent of the SPA,” wrote Alice Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation for OHM.
Carswell said the permit would allow JIA to move quickly to deal with what issues may arise later that are unforeseen now.
“These projects, by nature, arise opportunistically due to the dynamic and sometimes unpredictable nature of the shore environment,” Carswell said. “By design, they have light footprints, and motivational drivers for these type of projects tend to be protection or enhancement of natural resources’ values and management of the way we interact with the jurisdictional area.”
He went on to say it would allow for more responsible management within a defined scope, and only cover JIA — if anyone with a residential or commercial property would like to do something similar, they would have to apply for their own permits.
Regarding some of the particulars, Carswell said staff would be able to remove invasive plant species, plant and promote native beneficial vegetation, use sand fencing and dune vegetation to stabilize dunes and that all such actions would be verified by JIA conservation staff and adhere to the 2011 conservation plan.
“We’d also like to create a sand bank, so collection and banking of what’s sometimes referred to as nuisance sand on permit-approved walkways within the jurisdictional area could be beneficially used if we can collect it and temporarily store it,” Carswell said.
Keyes, in her letter, reiterated that the regular SPA permitting process is necessary to make sure the proper steps are taken and providing a sort of blanket exception would set a poor precedent.
“In order to achieve what we understand to be the goals of JIA’s proposed beach management permit and to uphold the intent of the SPA, we encourage JIA to update the Jekyll Conservation Plan and include the details of the activities, methods and location of projects they wish to pursue through the SPA,” Keyes wrote. “JIA staff have access to a number of experts, citizen leaders and others who can support the effort.
“After the conservation plan is updated, JIA could revisit the application for a beach management permit and revocable license for projects that are consistent with the goals and details of the conservation plan.”