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Land development in wetlands must have prior government permits

| Dec 22, 2015 | Environmental Law |

In Georgia and nationwide, when a developer or other person intends to build on land that is environmentally sensitive, permits must usually be obtained from local, state and federal authorities. For all construction in the waters or wetlands, the developer must obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers in addition to any other required approvals. Land development in environmentally sensitive areas is therefore subject to enhanced environmental protection measures.

Areas requiring an intensified approval process may include wetlands. These are areas that are periodically or permanently inundated by surface or ground water, and which support an ecological balance between vegetation, fish and wildlife. They serve and support a variety of other functions necessary to land stability and to the preservation of the natural habitat.

Experience shows that the effect of successive changes to the wetlands will eventually result in major damage to the delicate balance of natural resources. Georgia has a relatively large share of such wetlands and thus is a state where environmental litigation is relatively common. In neighboring Florida, a recent example of an attempt to develop a small tract shows how conflict can arise over the needs of the environment versus the ongoing activity of land development.

A large developer in that state is trying to build a four-unit subdivision for himself on a 40-acre tract that contains possible protected wetlands. Apparently, the developer started to prepare the land for construction after obtaining two local permits. He did not, however, get a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. This ignited into protests and two lawsuits filed by environmental groups.

One neighbor described the men coming in with bulldozers and wearing high boots inundated in water. The action of certain local authorities, environmental groups and the Army Corps of Engineers has stopped the project, at least for now. A representative of the Corps stated that no permit was issued and none was in the works. The same general scenario can play out with respect to intended land development in Georgia where that land may contain wetlands or be close to them.

Source:, “Neal Communities faces backlash over Bradenton construction project“, Kate Flexter, Dec. 20, 2015