In a ruling dated April 13th, 2010, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Altamaha Riverkeeper and against the State of Georgia in a case involving the proposed construction of a nearly 1400-foot long dock over pristine marsh in McIntosh County.
The Appeals Court dismissed as premature the State’s attempt to appeal a lower court ruling.
Last July, the Fulton County Superior Court reversed a decision by an Administrative Law Judge to uphold the permit for the mega-dock. The Superior Court held that the ALJ had wrongly refused to allow ARK to demonstrate that the permit was improperly issued given the absence of data furnished by the applicant showing that the dock would not unreasonably harm the marsh. The Superior Court ordered the ALJ to reconsider its rulings in light of the proper evidentiary standard. Before that could happen, however, the State filed its appeal.
The Appeals Court noted in its ruling, which also applies to a challenge brought by the developer and successor banks who now own the property previously known as Tranquility on the South Newport, that the State’s challenge was improper because it sought a ruling before the ALJ had a chance to reconsider her prior determination.
While appearing to be just another step in complicated legal maneuverings over one very long dock, ARK attorneys said in reality the ruling sets the stage for the ultimate dismissal of the State’s continuing efforts to justify "mega-docks" based upon nothing more than their willingness to tolerate such behemoth structures.
ARK’s attorney Don Stack noted that the State has been striving to justify expansive docks even in the face of evidence of their destruction of the marsh. Stack said "Superior Court Judge Constance Russell correctly determined there was not enough evidence for the State to approve such docks simply based upon an applicant’s unsupported assertions that the dock would have minimal impact to the marsh ecosystem. Yet that is precisely what both the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee and by extension the State has been doing.
Today’s ruling will force the State to positively demonstrate that these proposed docks are not contrary to the public interest. Now the State and the applicants will have to provide real evidence, not just unsupported assertions of the benign effects of such docks."
Altamaha Riverkeeper’s Executive Director Deborah Sheppard said, "With the State in financial crisis, why is it wasting taxpayer’s money on defending dock permits for developers who believe it is their right to degrade the marsh for financial gain when in fact the marsh is owned by the citizens of the State? The state should be spending its limited resources to evaluate and address the many very real threats to marsh. It cannot reasonably continue to defend permits for long docks that damage the marsh and exceed the limit of their own new rules."