Georgia’s barrier islands connect the ocean to the mainland and are fronted with approximately 100 miles of sandy beach. There are eight main barrier islands, four of which are accessible by car. The remaining main islands and the smaller secondary islands are accessible by boat. Georgia’s beaches are located on the seaward side of the islands. The state retains jurisdictional rights from 3 miles seaward from the shore, to the westernmost point of the dynamic dune field. The dune field is the connection between the ocean and the upland and comprises the sand sharing system which allows for the independent movement of sand and sediment that composes the dunes, beach, bars, and shoals. From the slope of the beach to the height of the dunes, the dune field protects the upland from storms and tides, and the water from runoff and pollutants.
In 1979 the State of Georgia established The Shore Protection Act to protect the sand sharing system and to regulate the activities within the dynamic dune field. Through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division (GADNR-CRD), this law is enacted to protect the beach and dune areas so that residents and visitors of Georgia alike can enjoy all that our shoreline has to offer. Activities and structures in the jurisdictional shore areas are regulated to ensure that the values and functions of the dynamic dune field and the sand sharing system are not impaired and to fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as public trustees of the dunes and beaches for succeeding generations. GADNR-CRD allows for the sustainable use of the dynamic dune field through permits and other methods of authorization that will preserve the condition of the shore while still allowing for its enjoyment.
The SPA permit application process is intended for structures that will impact jurisdictional shore areas. Structures covered under the Act include:
The SPA Permit-Issuing Authority consists of a five member GADNR Board appointed group called the Shore Protection Act Committee. Projects that fall under the jurisdiction of the SPA will be heard by the Committee in a public meeting forum.
Beach driving, as indicated by Title 12, Rule 391-2-2, is allowed for under very specific criteria and is handled by CRD staff through the authority of the SPA Committee.
Contact your local permit coordinator at either our Brunswick headquarters office at (912) 264-7218 or at our Richmond Hill satellite office with questions or to schedule a pre-application site visit.