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Georgia River Network v. Turner

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20170
Nos. A14A0215 et al., (Ga. Ct. App., 07/16/2014)

A Georgia appellate court held that the 25-foot buffer requirement set forth in Georgia’s Erosion and Sedimentation Act applies to all state waters and wetlands, not just those with vegetation wrested by normal stream flow or wave action. The case arose after environmental groups challenged a buffer variance issued in connection with a county’s plans to construct a 960-acre fishing lake. An administrative law judge reversed the variance, concluding that it failed to account for buffers required for wetlands on the site. The county appealed to state court, which reversed, holding that the Act requires a 25-foot buffer only along the banks of state waters with vegetation wrested by normal stream flow or wave action. But the appellate court disagreed. The Act provides for six exceptions to the buffer requirement, none of which are applicable here. Although the statute directs that the buffer is to be “measured horizontally from the point where vegetation has been wrested by normal stream flow or wave action,” this does not create a seventh exception. Rather, it merely specifies the location of the buffer. The lower court decision, therefore, was reversed.