Enforcement of Erosion and Sedimentation Laws in Georgia
The primary regulatory controls for erosion and sedimentation in Georgia come from the federal Clean Water Act, Georgia Water Quality Control Act, and Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Act. These Acts create an entwined permitting process to control storm water discharge and sedimentation into Georgia waters.
First, through the Clean Water Act and Georgia Water Control Act, the US Environmental Protection Agency granted Georgia authority to issue a “General Permit” for stormwater discharges, which is called the “Authorization to Discharge Under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Stormwater Discharges Associated With Construction Activity For Stand Alone Construction Projects.” Through this General Permit system, individual permits are not required before discharging stormwater into state waters.
Second, through the Erosion and Sedimentation Act, Georgia has created a regulatory system by which “Land Disturbing Activity” (LDA) permits are issued to control erosion and sedimentation.
One of the key components of this is the delegation of permitting power to local governments as “Local Issuing Authorities” (LIAs). In Rabun County, the county and the cities of Clayton and Sky Valley are LIAs. In Mountain City, Dillard, Tiger and Tallulah Falls, the GAEPD is the issuing authority for land disturbing activity permits. Together, these regulatory systems require an individual to file with GAEPD a Notice of Intent to discharge stormwater, and an application for an LDA permit with the proper LIA.
In general construction activities, disturbing more than 1 acre of land or sites within 200 feet of state waters are required to be permitted under the two regulatory systems. In addition, any land disturbing activities conducted within 25 feet of “warm water streams” and 50 feet of “trout streams” cannot be conducted without a variance from Georgia’s stream buffer requirements. At least 98 % of the rivers and streams in Rabun County are classified as trout streams.
Exemptions | Significant activities are exempted from these regulatory systems, including:
- Minor land-disturbing activities for homes and home gardens
- Single family residential construction where < 1 acre is disturbed and construction is not part of a common development plan to disturb > 1 acre agricultural operations and forestry land management practices
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services projects: Projects involving < 1 acre of disturbed area, unless part of a common development plan to disturb > 1 acre, or to occur within 200’ of state waters
- Surface mining and granite quarrying
- Construction by Georgia Department of Transportation or other road authorities
- Construction by electric membership corporations and other public utilities
- Public water system reservoirs construction
Opportunities for Citizen Involvement
Site Investigation and Documentation – Private citizens can take an active role in protecting the places they love from the negative effects of illegal erosion and sedimentation. To achieve maximum effectiveness, citizens can investigate and document the activities and physical impacts to streams and other water bodies. Documentation and a record of information can prompt appropriate action from a governmental official, media representative, or court to pursue and stop the water quality degradation.
Documentation Should Include
- Location: address, road name, and stream affected
- Date and time of site observations
- Observer and contact information
- Observations: be specific in describing the causes of erosion and sedimentation
- Photographs: coordinated to narrative descriptions and capturing visual evidence of the causes of erosion and sedimentation, such as silt fence overruns, retaining pond breeches, or other Best Management Practices (BMP) failures.
Contacts for reporting violations include:
Clayton Marshall Scott Crane: 706-782-4512
Sky Valley Public Works Supervisor: 706-408-3029
GA EPD / Enforcement, Cartersville: 770-387-4900
File Review | In addition, citizens can conduct a file review for those sites that are permitted, but appear that the permittee is violating the permit, or the BMPs are failing. Such files are public records and are open for citizen review. To review them, contact the appropriate LIA, go to the LIA’s office, and review the entire file. Citizens may make copies of documents such as the permit, correspondence between the LIA and the permittee about problems at the site, stop work orders, notices to comply, and other documents you believe are pertinent.