The dispute over a dock on Cumberland Island made its way to federal court Friday, while a separate lawsuit involving the same dispute moves along in Fulton County Superior Court.
The Center for a Sustainable Coast sued the National Park Service and the superintendent of Cumberland Island National Seashore for what the CSC claims is a failure by the NPS to properly execute its mission of protecting the national seashore according to the Seashore Act.
This comes because of the construction of a private dock, the development of which has been a matter of controversy on the island for quite some time. The state Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division gave the company overseeing the project — Lumar LLC — a letter of authorization in December 2005.
CSC argues both in the Fulton County case and in the federal case that the process should have gone through the state Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee before reaching the point of approval or rejection. Gaining approval through the CMPC is a public process that involves notifications published well ahead of time, and a meeting held in which public comments can be received and possibly acted upon.
CSC alleges Lumar violated the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act by building without a CMPA permit. Plans are for the development of 95 nearby acres into 10 lots.
According to the complaint, CINS Superintendent Gary Ingram signed a statement on behalf of the federal government to CRD that as an adjacent property owner, he had no objections to the dock project. CSC argues this statement increased the likelihood CRD would approve the project. CRD did approve it, and taking its lead from CRD, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Lumar a letter of permission.
CSC cites within the complaint part of the Seashore Act that states, “the seashore shall be permanently preserved in its primitive state.” It also argues the Seashore Act gives the NPS regulatory authority over bordering private land and state-owned marsh. The complaint states Ingram’s statement of no-objection was a violation of the Seashore Act’s primitive state requirement.
CSC is asking for the federal court to set aside the no-objection statement and enter a judgement that declares the NPS’ actions were an abuse of discretion and contrary to the Seashore Act.
In a statement released Tuesday, Karen Grainey, a CSC contractor, said, “The dock is the thin edge of the wedge for introducing new development on Cumberland Island.
“As evidenced by the thousands of emails, letters and public comments opposing the rezoning, the Park Service’s willingness to accommodate residential development in the heart of the national seashore is out of step with public opinion, which is in favor of honoring the legislation that established the seashore.”