State of the Beach/State Reports/GA/Beach Description
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The beaches of Georgia are all on barrier islands or former barrier islands that have migrated onto the mainland. Hurricanes are relatively frequent occurrences, significantly affecting the shape of the coastline.
Georgia’s coastline, only about 100 miles long, has a barrier island system that includes 13 islands — The Golden Isles of Georgia. The barrier islands play a vital role in protecting the mainland from storm surges and tidal action. Behind the barrier islands of the Georgia coast lie extensive salt marshes dominated by smooth cordgrass. These 375,000 acres of salt marshes make up one-fourth of the remaining salt marshes in the eastern United States. The highly productive marshes provide homes for oysters and clams and serve as nursery grounds for young shrimp, crab, and fish. The marshes protect the shorelines from erosion and also act as a purification system by filtering out many pollutants added to the waters by human activities. Five major river systems drain into Georgia’s small coastal area.
- Fact 1: Miles of Coast: 2,344
- Fact 2: Approximately 100 miles of open ocean shoreline
- Fact 3: Coastal Population (2000): 538,469
- Fact 4: 6.8% of the state's population lives within 10 coastal counties
Contact Info for the Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency
Coastal Resources Division
One Conservation Way, Suite 300
Brunswick, GA 31520-8687
Susan Shipman, Director
Coastal Zone Management Program
It is the mission of the Georgia Coastal Management Program to balance economic development in Georgia's coastal zone with preservation of natural, environmental, historic, archaeological, and recreational resources for the benefit of Georgia's present and future generations.
Recognizing that the coast of Georgia comprises a vital natural resource system, the State of Georgia implemented the Georgia Coastal Management Program in order to balance economic development with preservation of coastal resources. Developed through an extensive public process, the Georgia Coastal Management Program addresses the economic development concerns and natural resource issues identified by the citizens of Georgia.
Administered by the Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division, the Coastal Management Program uses existing state resource laws and establishes a network among agencies with management authority in the eleven-county coastal service area. The Georgia Coastal Management Act (O.C.G.A 12-5-320, et seq.) provides the authority for state agencies to network and coordinate activities, and for the state to participate in the National Coastal Zone Management Program.
The federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) provides funding assistance to states with approved Coastal Management Programs for the purpose of program implementation and administration. Pursuant to the Georgia Coastal Management Program, the Department of Natural Resources' Coastal Resources Division contributes approximately 60% of Georgia's CZMA administrative allocation to eligible entities as "Coastal Incentive Grants." Designed to fund projects that further the mission of the Coastal Management Program, Coastal Incentive Grants allow regional and local coastal issues to be defined and addressed creatively and proactively at the grass-roots level.
Eligible grant applicants include county and municipal governments, state agencies, and educational and research institutions. The Coastal Advisory Council establishes annual funding "themes." An independent review committee evaluates and scores proposals according to review criteria specified in the Request for Proposals.
Georgia's major coastal issues include pollution, a rapidly growing coastal population, and erosion on the state's developed barrier islands. To deal with these and other issues, the state has developed a federally approved coastal zone management program.
Commercial forestry, the pulp and paper industry, and military bases are major economic forces for the state and depend on a healthy coast.
NOAA's latest evaluation of Georgia's Coastal Management Program can be found here.
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