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Marsh buffer likely will be 50 feet

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POSTED: February 13, 2007 5:06 a.m.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s top environmental officials retreated from a plan last week that would ban developers from building within 25 feet of the tidal marsh after a stream of environmentalists complained the measure didn’t go far enough.
The Department of Natural Resources’ coastal committee instead backed a measure placing a 50 foot buffer along Georgia’s marshland under a measure the group could consider next month.
“I don’t see the rush where we need to go ahead and make a ruling,” said Mable Jenkins, a member of the committee.
Supporters of the 25-foot plan say it will strengthen protection for the state’s salt marsh by providing a buffer zone where land and vegetation must remain untouched. Some also couched the measure as a property rights issue.
“We have to be very careful,” said member Tom Wheeler. “We have to be reasonable when we take people’s property.”
Critics, however, have said the buffer needs to be at least twice as wide to protect nursery grounds for sea creatures. And although no buffers are in place now, a flurry of environmental activists argued the new rule would undermine other protections in place.
“Don’t forsake our marshes for the benefit of a few,” said April Ingle, director of the Georgia River Network.
The measure, which was rejected by a 4-2 vote, would have also required developers to treat stormwater runoff and reduce its pollutants. It will likely resurface next month recommending a 50-foot zone around the marsh, said committee member Loyce Turner.

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