In July, we wrote about a Georgia Court of Appeals decision which struck down a water buffer protocol established in April by the state Environmental Protection Division. The protocol essentially removed the requirement for 25-foot protective buffers around salt water marshes statewide. The decision, it appears, was not the end of the story.
Last month, Environmental Protection Division director Jud Turner, in disregard of the decision, issued an advisory message to counties and municipalities statewide that salt water marsh buffers are only required around state waters in some circumstances. The disregard is apparently due to the fact that the agency is in the process of appealing the Court of Appeals decision. The Georgia Supreme Court has not yet determined whether it will take the case, though.
The reason for the appeal, according to Turner, is that the decision created confusion about when buffers are required for salt water marshes. That comment has been disputed, though, by those who say the matter is actually quite clear. Opponents also say the further appeal indicates the current agency leadership’s unwillingness to do what is necessary to protect precious state water resources.
Buffering salt water marshes is important in order to keep these waters clean. More generally, protecting water resources is important for all of us, but especially for property owners who live near and make use of these waters. Those who are impacted by neglect of salt water marshes and other waters should work with an experienced environmental law attorney to identify their options and come up with a strategy for action.
Source: Savannahnow.com, “Georgia's Environmental Protection Division defies court ruling on marsh buffers,” Mary Landers, August 15, 2014.