Georgia’s Jekyll Island Coastline and HB 271

Copy of Photo of Jekyll Island Sand Dune


Why This Matters:

HERA does not advocate one political position or another.  This post provides information regarding legislation which may be of some concern to membership due to environmental and disaster outcomes resulting from changes by amending the language in O.C.G.A  Section 12-5-232.
Please review the link provided and read the language of the HB 271.  This specific legislation will have an immediate effect on Jekyll Island, however, the proposed changes to the statute can expose the future of Georgia’s coastline to vulnerability.  If passed as currently written, there could be more erosion and storm damage should development start encroaching on more and more of Georgia’s more vulnerable coastal areas.  The destruction and erosion of natural barriers along Georgia’s coastline will have a cumulative effect on cultural heritage and preservation of the same.
Here is a PDF of HB 271 in its current form: 2017hb271
In Summary: HB 271 allows for new construction to take place within just 25 feet of the high tide line in shoreline areas where there are no dunes and no sea walls or rock revetments. This provision in HB 271 significantly changes the effectiveness of natural storm barriers in Georgia’s coastal areas.  In addition to the changes to the definitions of what constitutes a “sand dune” the new provisions create a “Shore Protection Committee” within the department, which is governed by five individuals consisting of the Commissioner of the DNR and 4 additional members “selected by the board”.
Hurricane Mathew is our most recent reminder that Georgia’s coastline is vulnerable to storm surge, and flood damage.
 The motivation behind this specific legislation: The legislation was designed to benefit the Sea Island Spit-Project which is a development.  You can read the 2016-04-16 AJC Article by Dan Chapman here: AJC Article: “Posh Homes Expected on Sea Island Spit”
On Thursday, House Bill 271 bill was approved by the Natural Resources Committee and sent to the House Rules Committee (RC), where it will be discussed and possibly passed on to the full House for a vote.  If the House Rules Committee approves this measure, it will go the House Floor for a vote.  You can call your representative and ask them to reject this measure as the language currently stands.
 Talking Points:
Educate your legislators.  Let them know you are not in favor of this legislation the way it is written.  Presently, the language redefines the term “sand dune” in order to drastically reduce the jurisdictional area of the Shore Protection Act (SPA). Essentially, HB 271 says sand dunes that are covered with sparse, pioneer vegetation are not to be defined as “sand dunes” any longer, which means the SPA’s jurisdictional area would be measured from the sparsely vegetated primary dunes rather than the dynamic dune field landward from them.
This significant language change creates a danger to the natural barriers and coastal ecosystem.  HB 271 facilitates the development of the last open stretch of the beachfront area on Jekyll Island by removing it entirely from the SPA’s jurisdiction.  In turn, this legislation as written could have a long-term effect on other vulnerable areas along Georgia’s coastline.  Flooding and damage from storm surge will increase if the natural barriers and ecosystem are lost.
Representative Contacts:
If HB 271 is approved by the RC and goes to the House floor for a vote, call your State Representative and urge him/her to vote “no” on the bill. For the name and contact information for your representative, click on Legislators and enter your zip code in the “Find your Legislator Box” on the right side of the page.


Happy Anniversary HERA Atlanta – HERA Atlanta is 10!

The months of February & March 2017 mark ten years since HERA Atlanta was organized and founded after a series of Alliance for Response forums!


Floods, hurricanes, fires and other disasters can harm or destroy irreplaceable cultural and historical treasures. The institutions that safeguard books, documents, photographs, artifacts, and other historical collections can prepare for emergencies to avert or at least minimize damage. One of the keys to preparedness is a relationship with first responders and emergency managers. They are first on the scene at any event that threatens life or safety, and they represent a local system for planning, response, and recovery that has often overlooked a community’s cultural and historic assets.

Alliance for Response brings together cultural heritage and emergency management professionals at forums at the local level.  Disaster response originates at the local level and the local networks foster vital partnerships in each community. The Alliance for Response formed in 2003 and began holding forums in various locations.  AFR Forums increased interest, participation, and membership in the AFR network membership.  Local networks formed and at present, there are twenty-six national AFR networks.

In the beginning, generous support from the Fidelity Foundation enabled Heritage Preservation to launch Alliance for Response in 2003 and sustain the program through 2009.  The funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has enabled Heritage Preservation to continue to build on the momentum begun in those first six years of the successful programs and take it into the future. The AFR forums and initial meetings lead to new partnerships and initiatives to enhance the protection of cultural heritage collections at local levels.


In February of 2007 Alliance for Response held one such forum at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and some eighty attendees came together.  As a result of this event, HERA Atlanta was formed.  After the initial meeting at the High Museum of Art, a follow-up meeting of eighteen attendees happened in March of 2007 at the Columbia Theological Seminary, where members brainstormed about everything from defining the local mission to gathering up an emergency supply cache.   The primary aim of HERA is to mitigate the loss of cultural heritage materials in the event of a disaster. 

HERA Atlanta had its first test in March of 2008 when an EF 3 Tornado struck downtown Atlanta and members responded to help the Atlanta Daily World Newspaper.  The Atlanta Daily World is the oldest and continuously published African American Newspaper in the US, being published since 1928.  The Atlanta Daily World’s roof had collapsed and its collections were damaged by flooding.  Over a two-week period, 21 HERA volunteers from 9 organizations volunteered to help pack out damaged historical and business records.  Since the 2008 disaster response, HERA members have since participated in various disaster recovery efforts across the Southeast.

HERA membership has developed a strong network of communications to ensure all members are informed of disaster events, training opportunities, meetings or educational events. HERA Atlanta has 114 members from some thirteen counties, a set of Bylaws and cooperative relationships with sister state organizations to our South such as Savannah Heritage Emergency Response (SHER) in Savannah. Cultural Heritage professionals continue to come together with First Responders to educate each other on the best ways to protect Georgia’s Cultural Heritage collections from disaster, either natural or manmade.


HERA Atlanta holds at least two hands-on educational events each year and holds quarterly steering committee meetings.  Our membership comprises professionals working cultural heritage fields.  We continually work together with our local first responders to educate ourselves and our community on the best practices and measures to protect our state’s cultural heritage.