Coastal Preservation, Beach Dredge & Fill, Shoreline Armoring, Legal
February 13 2019

Surfrider Joins Lawsuit To Protect Georgia’s Sea Island Spit

by Staley Prom

The Surfrider Foundation has joined a lawsuit challenging a U.S. Army Corps permit allowing for the construction of a large, 350-foot coastal groin at Sea Island, Georgia. The permit also allows dredging between 1,315,000 to 2,500,000 cubic yards of sand from offshore, and renourishing over 17,000 linear feet of beach. Sea Island is a coastal barrier island near Brunswick, Georgia, and features the pristine, undeveloped “Sea Island Spit” at the south end of the island. The Spit is home to wildlife including nesting sea turtles and endangered and threatened species including loggerhead sea turtles, piping plover, and red knots.  

Surfrider previously fought against a development proposal for the Spit, which, in 2015, resulted in the protection of 90% of the property by a conservation easement. 

Surfrider also previously challenged the Georgia Shore Protection Committee’s permit for the 350-foot long, 6-foot high rock groin (with a 120-foot perpendicular T-head), extending from the Sea Island shore out into the water. Since the original proposal, Sea Island amended the project to include 17,000 feet of beach renourishment – more than 14 times that included in the initial application – and getting the sand for that fill by dredging offshore in the ocean, near critical habitat for the North Atlantic right whale.     

Two previously installed groins north of the new proposed groin have had severe erosion impacts to the south end of the Spit. This third will further alter the natural sand sharing dynamic in the surrounding areas and also negatively impact Surfrider members and others who enjoy recreating and wildlife viewing around Sea Island and Gould’s Inlet, all for the protection of eight undeveloped lots at Sea Island Acquisition, LLC’s Reserve at Sea Island development.   

Surfrider, on behalf of its Georgia Chapter, joins Altamaha Riverkeeper and One Hundred Miles as plaintiffs in the action, which was originally filed November 1, 2018.  Represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, the groups’ amended complaint, filed February 13, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, alleges the Corps’ issuance of the permit violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.  The Court has granted expedited review of the lawsuit.

For updates in this lawsuit and to learn more about Surfrider’s Georgia Chapter, please visit the chapter’s website and Facebook page.