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 those elements of the sand-sharing system including the dynamic area of beach and sand dunes, varying in height and width, but does not include stable sand dunes. The ocean boundary of the dynamic dune field extends to the ordinary high-water mark as determined by the Department. The landward boundary of the dynamic dune field, as determined by the Department, shall be the first occurrence of either the seaward most portion of a structure existing on July 1, 1979, or the landward most line that is 25 feet landward of the landward toe of the most landward sand dune, or 25 feet landward of the crest of a serviceable shoreline stabilization activity. In the absence of any of the aforesaid, the line shall be 25 feet landward of the ordinary high-water mark, except for property owned by the state, in which case the line shall be 100 feet landward of the ordinary high-water mark.

Coastal Resources Division Staff can locate the jurisdictional area by placing flags or tape along the toe of the landward boundary of the SPA 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.

Click here for a request form. Authorization MUST come from the property owner. If you are an agent, please make sure the property owner completes the form. Once complete, please email to diana.taylor@dnr.ga.gov