STATEMENT OF ISSUE: In September 2018, the Corps issued Sea Island Acquisition, LLC a Department of the Army permit to construct a new rock T-head groin and to discharge dredged beach material into waters of the U.S. (Atlantic Ocean and intertidal zone) on Sea Island, in Glynn County, Georgia. The permittee’s project purpose is to stabilize an eroding beach and provide storm protection of the adjacent uplands.
BACKGROUND: The application was received on October 15, 2015. After receipt of additional information, the Savannah District issued a Public Notice on December 16, 2015. The Savannah District received over 100 comments, with over 95% opposed to the project. Most of the concerns were related to erosion occurring on the island due to the previous shoreline hardening and the proposed project’s potential to exacerbate erosion issues. On March 6, 2018, the applicant amended the application to include beach renourishment between the existing northern and southern groins. Due to the change in project scope, the District issued another Joint Public Notice on March 20, 2018. Again, the District received numerous comments from the public voicing opposition to the groin construction, but not the beach renourishment between the existing groins. In September 2018, the District completed an Environmental Assessment, documenting compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The above EA evaluated multiple alternatives to construction of the groin, including beach renourishment without a groin, removing the southern groin and constructing a larger groin at the location of the proposed groin, construction of a nearshore berm that would potentially function as a natural sand bar, and hard armoring of the shoreline (i.e. bulkheads, sea walls revetments, etc.). Ultimately the District determined that the addition of the smaller proposed groin would not exacerbate on going erosion of the southern portion of Sea Island. In addition, the District determined that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Green sea turtle, Hawksbill sea turtle, Leatherback sea turtle, Loggerhead sea turtle, Kemp's Ridley sea turtle; Piping Plover, Red knot, Atlantic Sturgeon, Shortnose Sturgeon, West Indian Manatee, and the North Atlantic Right Whale. On October 19, 2017, NMFS, PRD concurred on the above effects determination for species within their purview. On March 20, 2018, the USFWS concurred with the above effects determination for the species within their purview. In addition, the Corps determined that the beach renourishment between the existing groins was covered under the South Atlantic Regional Biological Assessment/South Atlantic Regional Biological Opinion (SARBA/SARBO).
CURRENT STATUS: The District is currently being sued by the Altamaha Riverkeeper, One Hundred Miles and the Center for a Sustainable Coast. The above plaintiffs allege that the Corps violated the CWA, NEPA and the ESA. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the Corps violated the CWA and NEPA by: (1) issuing the permit when there is a less environmentally damaging practicable alternative; (2) limiting the purpose and need of the project; (3) failing to adequately address cumulative impacts; (4) failing to take a hard look at the environmental consequences and failing to prepare an environmental impact statement; (5) issuing a permit that would create undue interference with access to and use of public tidelands and (6) failing to take adequate steps to minimize or mitigate the adverse impacts of the project. In addition, the plaintiffs allege that the Corps violated the ESA by failing to adequately consult with National Marine Fisheries and the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the project.
DISTRICT POC: Sarah Wise, Regulatory Branch, (912) 652-5550.