Like many, you probably have great concern for the protection of the streams, rivers, lakes and other waterways in Georgia and surrounding states. Clean water is essential for the sustenance of native plants and animals as well as for the safety and health of those who live nearby. When those waterways become polluted, it is not long before the damage spreads to larger bodies of water, underground wells and precious habitats.
This is why it is essential that those involved in the many construction jobs throughout the state exercise extreme caution for the protection of any waterways near their projects. In fact, one of the first phases of any construction work should be identifying and buffering the waterways on a project even if it is on private property. If you are interested in preserving streams, rivers and lakes, you may want to be ready to identify when a construction project does not comply with laws protecting those water bodies.
A construction project that fails to identify waterways is in danger of violating buffer laws. These laws prohibit development within 25 feet from either bank of a state waterway. Certain waterways, such as trout streams, have an even wider buffer. Construction projects may not encroach on the area or remove any plant life without gaining a variance from the Environmental Protection Division. Protecting the buffers has many benefits, including:
- Providing physical protection from any disturbance or encroachment in the future
- Stabilizing the banks of waterways to prevent erosion
- Minimizing the intensity of flooding
- Providing a habitat for birds and other wildlife
- Controlling the temperature of the water for fish and other aquatic life
You may see signs that a construction project has included the protection of waterway buffers. For example, a stone path reduces the soil construction vehicles remove from the site. A well-maintained sediment barrier made of straw bales or a silt fence prevents sediment runoff from reaching the waterways. Even a stone dam or a barrier around storm drains can protect the waterways and their buffers.
What is my role?
With so much construction occurring across Georgia, you may rightly worry about the health and protection of the streams, lakes and rivers. Fortunately, there are many individuals, agencies and professionals who share your concern and are dedicated to holding construction companies to the highest standards of environmental protection. By reaching out to an attorney who is passionate about Georgia’s environment, you may learn the most effective legal paths that deal with buffer violations.