Discussion of the project and its details lasted more than an hour, but when the question was called, the state Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee approved a proposal by Glynn County Public Works to remove sediment and improve drainage at the gateway to St. Simons Island.

“We’ve been working at this for two years — we’re just trying to get dirt out of a hole,” Dave Austin, Glynn County Public Works director, said. “I live on St. Simons — I drive by this area twice a day.”

He later added, while gesturing at displayed maps of the proposed work, “Our intent behind this thing is to get in there, take the dirt out, and most folks not even know we were there. That’s going to be difficult to do because we’ll be right there on the island, and they’ll be passing us.

“But most folks are not going to know — we’re going to slip in and get it this way, we’re going to slip in and get it (that) way. On the vegetation, on this bank, there are a couple of trees here. We intend to leave every tree that’s over four inches in diameter, and there are some jurisdictional smaller trees here.”

There was a significant amount of discussion as to how much vegetation would be removed and what would happen following completion of the project.

As set out, the county plans to remove 5,964 square feet of marsh vegetation and 187 cubic yards of sediment from the ditch downstream of two 36-inch concrete pipes under Demere Road, 400 square feet of marsh vegetation and 38 cubic yards of sediment from the area north of Demere Road, and in two spots northwest of Sea Island Road, 60 square feet of marsh vegetation and 5 cubic yards of sediment from both areas.

Ben Pierce, division manager with Glynn County Public Works, said it wasn’t definitive that they would remove all of that vegetation, but some vegetation may have to go to allow for room for the excavators doing the dredging.

There’s around two feet of accumulated sediment in spots that present flooding concerns not only during tropical cyclones, but normal rain events.

The drainage areas haven’t been cleaned out since the completion of the gateway eight years ago.

As originally written, one of the special conditions of the permit allowing the project is that, “Should the vegetation to be removed within temporary impact areas in the marshlands and upland component not naturally revegetate within a year of project completion, the permittee may be required to provide a restoration plan to the Department (of Natural Resources) for review and approval.”

Committee member Zach Harris moved and received approval to amend the special requirement, so 30 days after project completion, the county has to submit a report on any impacts to “jurisdictional vegetation or vegetation within the buffers.”

During the public comment period, Julian Smith objected to the project and said he wanted the area on the north side of Demere Road restored to a tidal salt marsh so it can’t, as a freshwater marsh, become more subject to possible development.

He contends that letting more tidewater flow through would naturally remove sediment and prevent the sort of buildup that’s occurred.

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