State of the Beach/State Reports/GA/Beach Fill

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Georgia Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access67
Water Quality66
Beach Erosion4-
Erosion Response-4
Beach Fill4-
Shoreline Structures4 6
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas35
Website6-


Policies

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs, A National Overview (NOAA, March 2000) provides the following information:

"Policy Citation and Description

The Georgia Shore Protection Act. Ga. Code Ann. §12-5-230. The Georgia Shore Protection Act outlines the permitting process and requirements for beach nourishment activities and the mechanism for funding such projects. A permit is required for all shoreline engineering activities which include beach restoration or renourishment and artificial dune construction. A permit will be issued only if the activity will not impair the values and functions of the sand-sharing system including the coastal sand dunes, beaches, sandbars, and shoals.

Related Policies

Near Shore Sand Mining Regulations

Georgia’s Surface Mining Act regulates all surface mining in Georgia, including the Coastal Zone. Dredging or ocean mining of materials are not directly regulated by state authority, except that sand and gravel operations are subject to the Shore Protection Act.

Dredge and Fill Regulations

Dredge and fill activities are regulated under the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act, Ga. Code Ann. §12-5-286. Erecting structures, dredging, or filling marsh areas requires a Marsh Permit and where the activity is carried out on state-owned tidal water bottoms, a Revocable License from the Coastal Resources Division may also be required.

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping

Under the Shore Protection Act, a permit is required for any activity that alters the natural topography of the sand dunes, beaches, and bars.

Dune Creation/Restoration

Under the Shore Protection Act, a permit is required for artificial dune construction.

Public Access Regulations

There are no state-level public access regulations, however, the Coastal Resources Division provides technical assistance to develop model ordinances for coastal access that can be used by local governments when developing local zoning ordinances.

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

As stated in §12-5-241 of the Georgia Shore Protection Act, “From appropriations of the General Assembly made to the Department of Natural Resources for such purposes, the Department shall be authorized to provide state grants to local units of government for any one or more of the following purposes: dune stabilization programs; beach restoration and renourishment; and, construction or removal of shoreline engineering activities.

Amount of State Funding

No information was available on amounts of state funding for beach renourishment programs.

Cost Share Requirements

No information was available on cost share requirements for beach renourishment programs."

The primary State management authority for shoreline stabilization and beach erosion control is embodied in the Shore Protection Act. The Coastal Resources Division, through the Shore Protection Committee, issues permits for any shoreline engineering activity or land alteration on beaches, sand dunes, bars, or submerged shoreline lands. The Shore Protection Act contains provisions for two distinct alternatives in addressing shoreline erosion. The first alternative, erosion control activities, includes beach restoration and renourishment, artificial dune construction, and construction and maintenance of groins and jetties. The second alternative, shoreline stabilization, includes construction of revetments.

The Coastal Resources Division does not initiate erosion control activities. Permit applications for erosion control activities are made to the Division by the governing entity or private owner of the barrier island on which the activity is proposed. Beach restoration and renourishment techniques are preferable to shoreline stabilization activities since stabilization structures separate land from sea by maintaining the shoreline at its present position. Permits are granted for shoreline stabilization structures when the applicant has demonstrated that loss of property due to erosion is inevitable and that no reasonable or viable alternative exists.

Erosion control activities include beach restoration and renourishment, sand dune construction, and the construction and maintenance of groins and jetties. Local government units and private owners of barrier islands are encouraged to develop comprehensive beach erosion control programs that include continuous monitoring of erosion and accretion rates. Permittees of erosion control activities are required to conduct monitoring of the project's effectiveness and possible adverse impacts to adjacent properties. Permit applications must include beach monitoring (profile) data. Permittees of erosion control activities must also post a cash forfeiture bond payable to the State to cover the expenses of removal or modification of structures deemed responsible for adverse impacts to adjacent properties.

Georgia has defined "beach" in the Shore Protection Act (O.C.G.A. 12-5-230, et seq.) as "a zone of unconsolidated material that extends landward from the ordinary low-water mark to the line of permanent vegetation." Management consideration of public beaches and other public areas within the purview of the Georgia Coastal Management Program provides a planning framework for shorefront access and protection.

Tybee Island has created a Tybee Island Beach Management Plan (September 2005). From the introduction to that document:

"The purpose of this plan is to provide a useable planning document to the Tybee Island government and community that will serve several functions: serve as standard operating procedures for beach management by outlining responsibilities for management and maintenance of the beach; recommend specific duties to stakeholders and government officials; and provide pertinent information to residents and interested parties. This document will serve as official policy of the City of Tybee Island. It will provide long–term direction and guidance for city policy makers and the Tybee Island Beach Task Force (BTF) as well as best management practices to city personnel for beach re-nourishment and maintenance."


Inventory

One beach area in Georgia (Tybee Island) has had a 50-year (1975 - 2025) federal "Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction" project authorized by Congress. This authorization allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to launch studies of the potential coastal erosion problems in this order:

  • A Reconnaissance Report, which documents existing conditions and possible solutions, and establishes whether there is a federal interest in the project. If the project passes this barrier, it moves to…
  • A Feasibility Study, to determine whether the proposed project is environmentally acceptable and economically justified. This results in a recommended plan, which then leads to…
  • An Appropriations Request, which requires Congressional approval of any federal funds being spent on the proposed project (which cannot exceed 65% of the project cost and rarely reach 50%, with state and local funds making up the balance).


Sea Island has about 4.7 miles of beach which underwent privately-funded beach fill projects in 1986 and 1990. Tybee Island's 3.4 miles of beach was artificially "renourished" in 1976, 1987, 1993, and 1995.

A $9.1 million beach fill project for Tybee Island started in October 2008 and was scheduled to be completed by March 2009. During the project, contractors pumped 1.22 million cubic yards of sand along Tybee’s front beach area. The sand came from a “borrow site” located approximately 1.5 miles off shore of Tybee Island. The federal government funded approximately 60 percent of the cost while the remainder of the funding came from the City of Tybee Island, Chatham County, and the State of Georgia. More info here.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District awarded a $10 million contract in September 2014 for another beach fill project at Tybee Island. The City of Tybee Island and the Corps of Engineers jointly sponsor the project. The Corps will oversee the construction. The federal government funds approximately 61 percent of the cost while the city funds the rest. This is the first beach renourishment since 2008 at the ocean-front community. “We will pull beach-quality sand from about a mile off shore,” said Spencer Davis, the Corps' manager for this project. “We will pump the sand through a submerged steel pipeline to the shore where workers will use large construction equipment to place and smooth the sand.” Approximately 1.3 million cubic yards of sand will be added to approximately 3 miles of beach front from the north beach near Old Fort Screven to 18th Street, south of the public fishing pier. The project includes a small portion along Tybee Creek, known locally as the Back River.

UGA Skidaway Institute professor Clark Alexander is heading up a project to describe what’s known about the sand off the Georgia coast and identify where data gaps exist. The $200,000 project, funded by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), focuses on the area 3-8 miles offshore, but Alexander will catalog inshore areas as well. Alexander will compile both published and unpublished data into a geographic information system (GIS) that allows it to be stored, analyzed and displayed spatially. Among that data are the analyses of grain size and composition for some 200 samples of sand he’s taken from near and offshore areas over the last 25 years. Ultimately the information can be used to identify potential borrow sites for future uses. Similar projects are going on in 13 Atlantic states in response to the shore erosion experienced by many of them from Superstorm Sandy. The research uses part of the $13.6 million allocated to BOEM through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.


Information on beach fill in Georgia is also available through Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. State-by-state information is available from the pull-down menu or by clicking on a state on the map on this page.

In 2017 the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced a new online National Beach Nourishment Database – featuring data on projects comprised of nearly 1.5 billion cubic yards of sand placed in nearly 400 projects covering the continental U.S. coastline. In addition to the total volume and the number of projects, the database includes the number of nourishment events, the oldest project, the newest project, the known total cost, the total volume and the known length. The information is broken into both state statistics and those of local or regional projects. Every coastal continental state is included (so Alaska and Hawaii are still being compiled), and projects along the Great Lakes are similarly waiting to be added.

A report National Assessment of Beach Nourishment Requirements Associated with Accelerated Sea Level Rise (Leatherman, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Climate Change websites notes that the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to protect Georgia's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $153 million to $640 million. However, sand replenishment may not be cost-effective or appropriate for all coastal areas in the state, and therefore other responses, including allowing the sea to advance and adapting to it, may be warranted.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs: A National Overview (2000) is a report NOAA/OCRM that provides an overview of the problem of beach erosion, various means of addressing this problem, and discusses issues regarding the use of beach nourishment. Section 2 of the report provides an overview of state, territorial, and commonwealth coastal management policies regarding beach nourishment and attendant funding programs. Appendix B provides individual summaries of 33 beach nourishment programs and policies.


Contact

Jill C. Huntington
Coastal Management Specialist
GA DNR/Coastal Management Program
One Conservation Way, Suite 300
Brunswick, GA 31520
Email: jill_huntington@dnr.state.ga.us



State of the Beach Report: Georgia
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