Regarding propose amendments to Georgia’s Shore Protection Act that were recently tabled by the General Assembly Senate, further details merit consideration.
Writing on behalf of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, over a month ago I began recommending that the bill in question, HB 271, be set aside for more study. At that time, few thought the measure could be stopped, despite its woefully inadequate provisions. My letters to editors and to state legislators advising about the bill’s deficiencies were sent as early as mid-February.
Fortunately, others who were concerned for their own reasons as well those following my advice raised enough questions about HB 271 that the Senate Natural Resources Committee tabled it.
Most conspicuous was the bill’s total neglect of well-documented scientific evidence of shoreline erosion and sea-level rise - research paid for by state and federal funding, yet ignored in this ill-fated proposal that ironically was endorsed by the same agency (DNR) that authorized funding for the relevant scientific studies.
Research evidence - and clearly voiced scientific opinion - makes it clear that, under HB 271’s proposed amendments, shorefront development would be in greater danger from storm-surge and flooding, and that the "sand-sharing" system (beaches, dunes, and sand-bars) would be less protected.
Moreover, when storm-damage occurs, all taxpayers share the burden through federally subsidized flood insurance and other public costs incurred in recovery from "natural hazards." Willfully ignoring relevant science in regulating such areas unfairly shifts costs onto the general population, while further jeopardizing important natural resources.
The hidden truth is that the more humans elevate risks by disrupting the climate - thereby intensifying storms and accelerating sea-level rise - and by building in high-risk oceanfront areas, such hazards are both "natural" and man-made.
We cannot afford disregarding the rational application of information that can help reduce such risks. Passing HB 271 would have rewarded politically-driven motives that have been chronically negligent about the use of science to protect both humans and our environment.
Short-term objectives like profit-making in shorefront development must be disciplined by realistic evaluation of risk and the application of science in accountable determination of acceptable trade-offs.
Property-owners and the oceanfront environment will both benefit if objective legislative study of shore protection issues is used in guiding the revision of regulatory amendments.
We ignore science at our own peril (and increasing expense!), especially in a warming climate along the shores of an ever-rising sea.