The Jekyll Island Authority is asking for a permit from the Shore Protection Committee for work at the beach that on its surface seems reasonable. In practice though, the permit could set a precedent with potentially negative consequences and coastwide implications.
The authority manages the state-owned island and frequently requests permission under the Shore Protection Act to work in the jurisdictional area on things like repairing dune crossovers and maintaining developed areas near the beach.
The authority wants a broad permit that allows it to do much of that work without having to acquire individual permits for each job. The idea is to streamline the process of keeping Jekyll Island in tip-top shape — to make necessary repairs with less red tape.
The problem with the broad permit, should it be approved, is that it could easily become the first of many, effectively pushing the committee out of its job of monitoring activity along Georgia’s shoreline.
We trust the authority has the best interest of our fragile coastline in mind — after all, the state park relies on its beach to attract the tourists who pay to keep it how it is, mostly undeveloped and natural.
Such a permit, however, would open the door for activity that may normally not earn approval from the committee to happen without oversight. If Jekyll Island is given a permit, what is to stop other barrier islands from pursuing the same? When those dominoes begin to fall, the Shore Protection Committee could suddenly find itself with its hands effectively tied behind its back, unable to properly monitor development and other activities along Georgia’s coast.
We do not believe the authority is trying to do anything but keep its island in pristine condition, but skirting the process that has for decades worked, for the most part, in monitoring the coastline is not in the best interest of our beaches.
The process for performing maintenance and repairs or building anything along our shores should not be simple and easy. The law requires oversight of such activities for a reason — to protect our fragile coastline. Issuing a broad permit for activity within the Shore Protection Act’s jurisdiction would essentially remove that requirement, and that is a questionable step to take.