ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - The state Supreme Court has ruled that the 25-foot buffer required by state law between development projects and the banks of waterways generally does not apply to marshes and wetlands. This issue had been holding up the work on the Tired Creek reservoir in Grady County.
The 6-to-1 decision, written by Justice Robert Benham, reversed the Georgia Court of Appeals, ruled in favor of the director of Georgia's Environmental Protection Division, and found that under the state's Erosion and Sedimentation Act, a 25-foot buffer is required only along the banks of state waters that are edged by “wrested vegetation,” where the force of the water flow has torn away the vegetation and there is a clean demarcation between water and vegetation.
The case arose from efforts by Grady County to construct a 960-acre fishing lake by building a dam that would flood various creeks and wetlands. A section of Georgia's Erosion and Sedimentation Act (Georgia Code § 12-7-6 (b) (15) (A)) states that there must be “a 25 foot buffer along the banks of all state waters, as measured horizontally from the point where vegetation has been wrested by normal stream flow or wave action, except” where one of six exceptions applies. One of the exceptions listed is: “Where the director determines to allow a variance that is at least as protective of natural resources and the environment.”