Sea Island Seeks Ordinance Change For Beach Renourishment

Sea Island officials are seeking to amend a county ordinance in order to speed up a beach renourishment project.
Sea Island officials are seeking to amend a county ordinance in order to speed up a beach renourishment project.
Credit WIDTTF/Flickr

Sea Island is trying to fix its beach erosion problem. The resort wants to add 1.3 million cubic yards of sand to its beach before turtle nesting season starts next year. Their application with the Army Corps of Engineers requests permission for up to 2.5 million cubic yards.

The private island was hit hard by the last hurricane season. The company has had a shore protection program in place for several years and much of that work was destroyed.

“When two 100-year storms come in and basically pull much of that sand out of those two areas and back into the overall sand sharing system, you really need to, in essence, fill the tank back up,” said Scott Steilen, president and chief executive of the Sea Island Company.

He said the new sand will continue protecting the island from future storms and create more habitat for turtles and birds.

“We are after all a beach resort, and it’s better to have a great beach as a beach resort than to not have one,” he said.

Steilen said this doesn’t change anything about the permitting rules they will follow.

“Are we getting preferential treatment? The answer is no,” he says.

A proposed amendment to a Glynn County ordinance would speed up the county’s role in the state’s permitting process. Sea Island’s General Counsel, Bill McHugh spoke to a Glynn County joint planning commission meeting about it on Tuesday. He said the company is trying to meet a Nov. 1 start date for the project in order to finish in time for turtle nesting season next spring.

Charles McMillan, coastal director of the Georgia Conservancy said he understands the need to repair damage from the storms. However, he called this “unusual” and is worried about the precedent it could set.

“Any changes to an ordinance that relate to work on our Georgia dunes or beaches are going to be a concern,” he said.

The Glynn County Planning Commission set a six-month expiration on the rule change. McMillan said he’ll be watching to see if that sticks.

Jane Fraser is concerned about the way the amendment was proposed, with little heads up. She’s a Sea Island landowner who does not think beach renourishment is a good idea in the long-term. “These are very important issues that the public should be noticed on,” she said.

County Commissioner Peter Murphy urged the planning commission to “give [Sea Island] an expedited process here” and approve the amendment, citing the importance of the five-star resort to Glynn County. It passed unanimously.

County Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the amendment Thursday night.

This report has been updated.