Hurricane Irma made clear the fragility of our coastline and its increasing vulnerability to storm events. Given this fact, our local state representatives would do well to rethink their co-sponsorship of the January 2017 legislation (House Bill 271) that proposed to limit the jurisdictional area of Georgia’s Shore Protection Act (SPA) to a mere 25-feet, as measured from either the landward-most dune, a shoreline stabilization structure, or the ordinary high water mark. They need only visit some of the storm-damaged sites in the Golden Isles to realize that the last thing needed now is legislation that would reduce the SPA’s jurisdiction and encourage building and other land-altering activities closer to the shoreline.
In mandating a uniform, 25-foot landward jurisdictional area for the SPA, HB 271 failed to consider that shoreline conditions and the degree of shoreline protection needed vary along the coast. If the SPA is to serve its intended purpose, a staggered jurisdictional boundary based on the varying degree of shoreline vulnerability is clearly preferable to assigning the same degree of protection to the most as well as the least vulnerable shoreline areas, which HB 271 does.
Fortunately, HB 271 was tabled for further study when it reached the Senate Natural Resources Committee in March of this year. When/if the bill is resurrected in the 2018 legislative session, I urge its sponsors to think of Irma, consult the scientific data documenting shoreline change/erosion rates along our coast, and amend the bill accordingly.