DNR orders Jekyll Island to stop work along causeway
February 7, 2013
BRUNSWICK - The Jekyll Island Authority has been told to stop clearing native marsh plants along the causeway that connects the island to the mainland because it was damaging the marsh.
After receiving a complaint about the clearing from a former Altamaha Riverkeeper, the state inspected the project on Jan. 1 and found violations of the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act.
Marsh plants, specifically silvering and false willow, had been removed. Native marsh vegetation is protected under the act.
“The resolution of the unauthorized activity is to allow these areas to naturally re-vegetate and cease any further alteration of the jurisdictional area,” Compliance and Enforcement Coordinator Josh Nobles of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division wrote in his inspection report.
The authority announced early last year that 2 1/2 miles along both sides of the 7-mile causeway would be cleared to restore wildlife habitat lost to non-native and invasive plants and to improve vistas in some particularly scenic areas.
The first phase of the project occurred last winter and the second phase began last month.
Authority workers erred when they crossed over a jurisdictional line established by the DNR to separate the man-made causeway from the natural salt marsh and its upland buffer, environmental advocate James Holland said.
“They have clear-cut over a mile of segments of the marsh buffer,” the former Altamaha Riverkeeper said. “I mean they have literally clear-cut it.”
Holland said authority workers showed a disdain for the environment by impinging on the buffer.
“When you clear-cut so much marsh buffer, you’re saying that you don’t give a damn about the wildlife that uses it or about water quality,” he said.
JIA spokesman Eric Garvey, however, said only a nominal number of plants had been cut and that any impingement onto the buffer or into the marsh was done unintentionally.
“I don’t think the jurisdictional line was ever drawn because of the massive overgrowth,” Garvey said. “The DNR relied on the expertise of our landscape architect and possibly some mistakes were made.”
He said the authority agreed with the DNR’s order to allow the plants to regrow and that work was done for this year anyway. The project will continue in the wintertime for several more years.
Holland has filed two more complaints with the DNR over issues on Jekyll Island. One involves the construction of a bicycle path on the island and the other on work being done to reroute the roads at a former toll station just east of the foot of the causeway.
Last year, another of his complaints led to the JIA having to replant marsh vegetation lost during the construction of a new toll station on the causeway, he said.