Altamaha Riverkeeper News

Turtle Expert’s Opinion Overlooked in DNR Report on Spit

SPit photosGeorgia’s Department of Natural Resources ignored its own turtle expert’s advice in a document prepared in connection with Sea Island Acquisition’s application to build an additional sea groin intended to protect eight lots SIA is trying to sell, according to testimony Tuesday before an administrative law judge in Brunswick.

The testimony came as part of an appeal of the state Shore Protection Committee decision last December to grant the application to build the proposed groin. Altamaha Riverkeeper, Surfrider and One Hundred Miles all filed an appeal of that decision.

Sea Island’s request was to create 1,200 feet of beach on the seaward side in front of the proposed development lots by building a 350-foot T-shaped groin and then trucking sand in to create a beach for the currently unsold lots. Given the editing of his report, the Shore Protection Committee may not have been aware that DNR turtle program coordinator Mark Dodd opposed the project. In his report, Dodd wrote that the proposed rock groin would be a detriment to sea turtle nesting habitat. “And as such we recommend the groin not be permitted at this time,” Dodd wrote in his report to his superiors. That recommendation was deleted.

The word “unreasonably” also was twice removed from Dodd’s portion of the report, in both instances regarding references to the strain the project would place on turtle nesting habitat, Dodd told Steve Caley, an attorney with the environmental watchdog group GreenLaw, which represents Altamaha Riverkeeper and Surfrider in the case. One Hundred Miles is represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Dodd’s testimony came during the second day of a week-long appeals hearing presided over by Judge Kirstin Miller of the Office of State Administrative Hearings. On Wednesday, the judge, lawyers and parties in the case made a site visit to Sea Island to see where the groin construction is proposed. Proceedings in the appeal process are not expected to be completed for the judge’s consideration until mid-July.

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