Jurisdictional Determinations for Marsh and Shore Activities

Image of Jurisdictional Marking

There are two laws in the State of Georgia that were established as guidance for all activities that occur within the salt marsh and shoreline areas. The Coastal Marshlands Protection Act (CMPA) of 1970  and the Shore Protection Act (SPA) of 1979 were enacted to provide a regulatory means by which commercial and recreational development could occur within and adjacent public trust lands. Public trust lands are the areas that are held by the state to provide equitable access and enjoyment for all the citizens of Georgia.

If you live or work anywhere near the salt marsh or the beach and are contemplating clearing land, planning a construction project, or buying /selling a property, you must contact the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division Staff to obtain a current jurisdictional determination.

Contact your local permit coordinator at our Brunswick headquarters office at (912) 264-7218 with questions or to schedule a pre-application site visit.

Jurisdictional determinations for projects in or near salt marsh

Under the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act (CMPA) of 1970, marshlands are defined as any marshland intertidal, mud flat, tidal water bottom, or salt marsh within the estuarine areas of the state of Georgia whether through natural or manmade waterways. The vegetated salt marsh areas can be determined using the presence of one or more of the fourteen marsh plants that are included in the law. 

The Act also defines the estuarine area as all tidally influenced waters, marshes and marshlands lying within a tide-elevation range from 5.6 feet above mean tide level and below. A close approximation of these areas can be located by looking at the 6-foot contour line of a topographic map or a survey plat by a registered surveyor.

Coastal Resources Division Staff can locate the marsh-upland boundary, which delineates the salt marsh jurisdictional area of the CMPA, by placing survey flags or tape along the vegetated marshlands border on your property. The flag locations should be surveyed in and overlaid onto your boundary plat. Jurisdictional determinations are typically valid for one year from the date of their marking.    

For freshwater determinations, click here to contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regional Savannah District Office.

Jurisdictional determinations on or near the beach

Under the Shore Protection Act (SPA) of 1979, the jurisdictional area of the law extends from the state boundaries, three miles offshore, west to the westward boundary of the Dynamic Dune Field.

The Dynamic Dune Field is defined as running from the ordinary high water mark to the first occurrence of either a live native tree 20 feet in height or greater, or a structure existing on or before July 1, 1979. 

The landward boundary of the Dynamic Dune Field is the seaward most line connecting any such tree or structure if the distance between the two is a reasonable distance not to exceed 250 feet.  The term reasonable distance takes into consideration topography, dune stability, vegetation, lot configuration, existing structures, distance from ordinary high-water mark, and other relevant information to conserve the vital functions of the sand-sharing system. The sand sharing system allows for the independent movement of sand and sediment that composes the dunes, beach, bars, and shoals.

Coastal Resources Division Staff can locate the jurisdictional shore area of the SPA, by placing survey flags or tape along the Dynamic Dune Field border on your property. The flag locations should be surveyed in and overlaid onto your boundary plat. Jurisdictional determinations are only valid for one year from the date of their marking.

For more information

Click here to contact your local permit coordinator with more questions or to schedule a marsh or shore determination on your property.