With approximately 378,000 acres of salt marsh, Georgia has almost one third of the total salt marsh area on the eastern seaboard. The coastal marshlands of Georgia comprise a vital natural resource system. The Georgia marsh is important for the growth and survival of the fish and shellfish that makes Georgia’s famous seafood industry so productive. The marsh is essential in the treatment of polluted runoff that originates from the uplands and is vital for protection from erosion and from coastal flooding during storm events. The coastal marshlands provide a natural recreation resource which has become vitally linked to the economy of Georgia’s coastal zone and to that of the entire state. It is one of the most pristine coastal areas in the country, and the marshes need protection if they are to remain so.
In 1970, the State of Georgia established the coastal Marshlands Protection Act (CMPA) to protect the marsh and estuarine areas, and to regulate the activities within these public trust lands that are held for the citizens of Georgia. Through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division (DNR- Coastal Resources Division), the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act has been implemented to protect the estuarine area so that residents and visitors of Georgia can fish, boat, use, and enjoy the all the salt marsh and tidal waters have to offer. Activities and structures in the coastal marshlands are regulated to ensure that the values and functions of the coastal marshlands are not impaired and to fulfill the responsibilities of each generation. As public trustees of the coastal marshlands for succeeding generations, DNR Coastal Resource Division allows for sustainable use of the estuarine area through permits and other methods of authorization that will preserve the condition of the marsh while still allowing for its enjoyment.
The Coastal Marshland Protection Act permit application process is intended for structures that will impact jurisdictional marsh and tidal water bodies. Structures covered under the Act include marinas, community docks, bridges, dredging, bank stabilizations longer than 500 feet, modification to any such structure, and construction not exempted from the Act. The Coastal Marshland Protection Act Permit Issuing Authority consists of a five member DNR Board appointed group called the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act Committee. Depending on the size and nature of a project, the application materials may be heard by the Committee in a public meting forum. Projects to be considered must be water dependent and within the public interest.