Coastal Plan Cheered at Jekyll

Article excerpt

JEKYLL ISLAND -- A legislative committee finished two days of

work yesterday in a clubhouse overlooking three of the state

resort island's immaculately manicured and pricey golf courses.

Although no one mentioned it, Jekyll Island was the spot where

the Department of Natural Resources drew a line in the sand on

its own environmental laws. It was here that former executive

director George Chambliss gave the order to clear land for nine

new holes of golf without securing the necessary environmental

permits.

Chambliss lost his job over the incident, and a new executive

director hosted DNR Commissioner Lonice Barrett and the study

committee this week. The committee probably will introduce

legislation in January that will lead the state into a federal

program designed to protect the environment of a two-deep tier

of coastal counties.

The committee heard some objections to coastal zone management

yesterday but they were drowned out by a chorus of endorsements

from people who said the program is needed as quickly as

possible to save Georgia's 117-mile coastline from

overdevelopment.

Under the program, all state and federal environmental

regulations would conform and be coordinated by a single state

agency. Not all permits could be obtained in one office, but

state and federal agencies would meet monthly to ensure

consistent enforcement.

Savannah engineer Bill Foster, a member of an advisory

committee that worked on the coastal zone management proposal

for nearly four years, said the Department of Natural Resources'

Coastal Resources Division in Brunswick is protecting the coast

just fine.

"It's very predictable. They are surely watching the store,"

Foster said. "The fact is, federal rules and regulations are not

predictable."

He warned that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric

Administration would hand down burdensome and confusing

regulations along with the roughly $1 million in federal funding

each year.

Dewey Benefield, an executive with the Sea Island Co., warned

that Georgia is headed down the same road it took in 1979, when

he worked four years on the program only to have the state

decide not to participate.

The problem is the same now as then: Although NOAA says the

state has little work to do to enter the program, they keep

adding requirements, Benefield said. …