Friday, February 8, 2008

Georgia Environment Hijacked by Republicans

Here in Georgia, the Republicans have solidly taken over. They are beginning to tear apart our environmental regulations, and the destruction of Georgia's coast has begun. For years great care was taken with the preservation of Georgia's barrier islands. They are primarily undeveloped, with a few exceptions, and Georgia remains one of the few states on the East coast with the majority of its islands still pristine.

Our governor is heavily supported by developers, who are doing their best to begin the destruction of the state through the loosening of environmental regulations, reducing buffers along streams and coastal marshlands, and working to get their claws into protected lands, particularly along the coast.

Jekyll Island is a great example. The Island is by law to be protected from development and to be accessible to all Georgians. Now under Gov. Perdue, the island is in peril. There are plans to develop luxury hotels and condos. There has been pressure to develop the southern end of the Island. If the developers have their way, the average Georgian will soon be priced out and not long after that, they will begin the process of making it yet another gated luxury community for the rich. To be fair I must say the the local state senator, a Republican, is fighting hard to keep the Island as it is. I wonder how much longer he will be able to resist his own party leaders.

The other state owned islands will soon follow. I expect that there are now secret plans to begin loosening the restraints on these wonderful pristine properties, so that they can be developed to become the playgrounds of the rich. Of course the politicians and their friends will reap the benifits and we, the people of Georgia, will be the losers. We will have lost our barrier islands that are so ecologically important to the survival of the coast, and we will be prohibited from visiting them. Our children will not know about the wonderful nature and history with which these islands now abound.

It is a shame that these politicians have such misguided policies and beliefs. Over the course of the last few days, I have learned of a bill introduced to allow the state DOT and its contractors to be immune from erosion violations. In another instance a south Georgia developer is being refunded a fine for encroaching on a buffer along state waters. A state employee was doing his job, but the politicians over ruled. The State Senate Majority leader has been guilty of destroying wetlands, the Speaker of the House wants to destroy dunes along the beach to develop a piece of propety that he owns. Pollution violators have been appointed to the State Board of Natural Resources and a leading envionmentalist was removed from that same board.

I once talked to an airline pilot who told me how much he enjoyed flying over Georgia on his east coast route, because he could look down and see the beautiful barrier islands that were not overwhelmed with development as in Florida and South Carolina. How much longer will he be able to say that? I fear that we are headed down a one way street with no return.

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