Chatham County Department of Engineering, Drainage and Public Safety Improvements, Penn Waller Road, Wilmington Island, Betz Creek, Chatham County, Georgia

Chatham County, Georgia

This serves as notification from the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources of a request from Chatham County Department of Engineering for a Coastal Marshlands Protection Act (CMPA) permit under Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A.) 12-5-280 et seq., to improve existing drainage infrastructure and enhance public safety along a portion of Penn Waller Road. The project includes installation of culvert extensions, headwalls, and fill to improve drainage and construction of a sidewalk extension for pedestrians in the vicinity of a school on Wilmington Island, Betz Creek, Chatham County, Georgia. The proposed project is under 1/10 of an acre, and therefore may be considered a minor alteration of coastal marshlands under O.C.G.A. 12-5-280 et. seq.

Penn Waller Road Right of Way (ROW) includes a 34ft. long, 8ft. x 8ft.  concrete box culvert with an attached failed tide gate, two 10ft. travel lanes each with a grassed shoulder less than 4ft. wide, and a guard rail to the east and west of the road. Existing utilities in the ROW easement include a 4-inch gas line and an 8-inch water line. The applicant states that drainage is impaired by the existing culvert and the current ROW does not allow safe passage for students attending school and residents in the vicinity. Existing impacts to CMPA jurisdiction associated with the culvert total 272sq.ft. (0.006 acre).

The proposed project includes removal of the existing culvert and tide gate. The applicant proposes to construct and maintain a new 48ft. long, 10ft. x 6ft. concrete box culvert (480sq.ft. / 0.011 acre) which will result in approximately 140sq.ft. (0.003 acre) of new impacts for the box culvert. The eastern side of the culvert will be extended 5ft. requiring a 3.5ft. x 25ft. fill area (87.5sq.ft. / 0.002 acre) and a new 42ft. x 1ft. concrete headwall (42sq.ft. / (0.001 acre). To install a sidewalk and create a safer shoulder within the western ROW, the west side of the culvert will be extended 9ft. requiring a 15ft. x 43ft. (645sq.ft. / 0.015 acre) fill area. Two existing 36-inch RCP drainage pipes that discharge into Betz Creek will be extended from the north (25 linear ft.) and south (12 linear ft.) within the western ROW (75sq.ft. / 0.002 acre and 36sq.ft. / 0.001 acre, respectively) and be incorporated into the new 69ft. x 1ft. headwall (69sq.ft. / 0.002 acre). Once the extension project is complete, approximately 400 cy. of clean fill material will be used to bring the area up to the finished grade to install the sidewalk. Temporary impacts to coastal marshlands for the project total approximately 1,525sq.ft. (0.035 acre). Permanent impacts including fill, headwall, and culvert extensions in coastal marshlands for the project area will be 1,095sq.ft. (0.025 acre). 

The entire project area is contained within the upland component’s 50ft. marshlands buffer (0.183 acre). The 50ft. marshlands buffer along Betz Creek includes two travel lanes for Penn Waller Road, an existing sidewalk, and a maintained pervious road shoulder.  Approximately 4,269sq.ft. (0.098 acre) of the buffer is existing pavement associated with Penn Waller Road (3,061sq.ft. / 0.070 acre), St. Andrew’s School access road (994sq.ft. / 0.023 acre), and the existing sidewalk (214sq.ft. / 0.005 acre). The remainder of the buffer consists of maintained pervious ROW shoulder (3,701sq.ft. / 0.085 acre). Proposed activities within the upland buffer consist of all activities necessary to construct the proposed marshlands component, improve the existing road shoulders, repave the existing travel lanes, and connect the proposed sidewalk section to the existing sidewalks north and south of Betz Creek. The total amount of new pavement for the sidewalk along the existing road shoulder is approximately 456sq.ft. (0.01 acre). The remaining pervious surface within the buffer will remain pervious (3,245sq.ft. / 0.0744 acre). Work will be performed by utilizing a backhoe to excavate existing headwalls, wet soils, and for the placement of the new culvert then backfilled using clean fill dirt. Temporary impacts to the buffer include grading and filling to match grades associated with the new shoulder extensions. All temporary impacts within the 50ft. marshlands buffer will be restored to the preconstruction state. Discharged stormwater from the upland component of the project will be managed according to the policy, criteria, and information including technical specifications and standards in the Coastal Stormwater Supplement to the Georgia Stormwater Management Manual. Penn Waller Road will be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic during construction.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to demonstrate that the project is not contrary to the public interest and that no feasible alternative sites exist. Impacts to coastal marshlands must be minimal in size. In passing upon the application for permit, the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee shall consider the public interest: (1) Whether or not unreasonably harmful obstruction to or alteration of the natural flow of navigational water within the affected area will arise as a result of the proposal; (2) Whether or not unreasonably harmful or increased erosion, shoaling of channels, or stagnant areas of water will be created; and (3) Whether or not the granting of a permit and the completion of the applicants proposal will unreasonably interfere with the conservation of fish, shrimp, oysters, crabs, clams, or other marine life, wildlife, or other resources, including but not limited to water and oxygen supply.

A detailed public notice with drawings has been distributed and is available by visiting the Department of Natural Resources website: under “Public Notices.”

Please provide this office with substantive, site-specific comments as to why the proposed work should or should not proceed.  Comments and questions concerning this proposed project should be submitted in writing and be submitted by the close of business on April 11, 2024, to Deb Barreiro, Department of Natural Resources, 185 Richard Davis Drive Suite 104, Richmond Hill, Georgia 31325 or via email at

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