A Guide to the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act Requirements, Process, and Compliance

The Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act: A Comprehensive Guide provides a deep dive into one of the state's most critical environmental regulations. This guide offers a clear, concise, and practical exploration of the Act's key provisions, regulatory standards, and compliance obligations. It illuminates the Act's role in preventing and minimizing soil erosion and sedimentation from land-disturbing activities, while also highlighting recent developments and the current regulatory outlook. The guide emphasizes the importance of proactive compliance and early engagement with relevant agencies, providing readers with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate the Act's requirements effectively. With its focus on practical guidance and real-world application, this guide serves as an invaluable resource for understanding and complying with the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act, ensuring that land-disturbing activities are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Key Details of the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act

Issuing Agency: Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of the Department of Natural Resources
Year Established: 1975
Last Amended: 2015
Statutory Authority: The Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Act of 1975
Primary Legal Reference: Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) Sections 12-7-1 through 12-7-22

Overview of the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act

The Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act operates within the state's broader framework of environmental regulations, which are primarily administered by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD). The Act specifically addresses soil erosion, sedimentation, and associated water quality issues resulting from land-disturbing activities, such as construction projects.[^1]

The Act was first enacted in 1975 in response to growing concerns about the impacts of soil erosion and sediment runoff on Georgia's waterways. It has undergone several amendments over the years, with the most recent significant changes occurring in 2015.

The Act's primary approach involves requiring permits for land-disturbing activities, mandating the use of best management practices (BMPs) to minimize erosion and sedimentation, and establishing a system of local issuing authorities to administer and enforce the regulations at the county or municipal level.[^3]

The Act applies statewide, with some jurisdictional boundaries related to the size of land-disturbing activities and the delegation of permitting authority to local governments. Certain agricultural and forestry activities are exempt from the Act's requirements.[^4]

What does the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act protect?

The Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act primarily protects water resources in the state from the adverse impacts of soil erosion and sedimentation. The Act aims to prevent the degradation of water quality, loss of aquatic habitat, and damage to infrastructure caused by excessive sediment loading in streams, rivers, lakes, and other waterbodies.[^5] It achieves this protection by regulating land-disturbing activities, requiring the implementation of erosion and sediment control measures, and establishing a permitting and enforcement system to ensure compliance.[^6]

[^1]: O.C.G.A. § 12-7-2 [^3]: O.C.G.A. § 12-7-4; O.C.G.A. § 12-7-8 [^4]: O.C.G.A. § 12-7-17 [^5]: O.C.G.A. § 12-7-2 [^6]: O.C.G.A. § 12-7-6; O.C.G.A. § 12-7-10

REGULATORY SCOPE & JURISDICTION

Regulated Activities & Entities

The Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act (ESCA) is a comprehensive state regulation aimed at preventing and minimizing soil erosion and sedimentation caused by various land-disturbing activities. The Act applies to a wide range of entities involved in construction, land development, and other activities that may result in soil erosion and sedimentation, including:

  • Construction companies
  • Land developers
  • Property owners
  • Governmental agencies
  • Agricultural operations

Under the ESCA, regulated activities include any land-disturbing activities that may lead to soil erosion and sedimentation, such as:

  • Clearing and grubbing
  • Grading
  • Excavating
  • Filling
  • Stockpiling soil or other materials
  • Constructing buildings, roads, or other structures

The ESCA prohibits the following activities and practices:

  1. Conducting land-disturbing activities without obtaining the necessary permits and approvals[^100]
  2. Failure to implement and maintain adequate erosion and sedimentation control measures, such as Best Management Practices (BMPs)[^101]
  3. Discharging sediment or other pollutants into waters of the state or onto adjacent properties[^102]
  4. Failure to comply with the terms and conditions of permits, plans, and other approvals issued under the ESCA[^103]

These prohibitions are in place to prevent soil erosion, sedimentation, and the associated environmental impacts, such as water pollution, habitat degradation, and reduced water storage capacity in lakes and reservoirs.

Structure and Key Provisions

The Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act is structured into several key sections that outline the regulation's scope, requirements, and enforcement mechanisms. The main sections of the ESCA include:

Definitions (Section 12-7-3)

This section provides definitions for key terms used throughout the Act, such as "land-disturbing activity," "best management practices," and "erosion and sedimentation control plan."

Powers and duties of the commission (Section 12-7-6)

This section outlines the powers and responsibilities of the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission in administering and enforcing the ESCA, including the development of rules and regulations, provision of technical assistance, and coordination with other agencies.

Permit requirements and application process (Section 12-7-7)

This section establishes the requirement for obtaining a permit before conducting any land-disturbing activities and outlines the application process, including the submission of an erosion and sedimentation control plan.

Erosion and sedimentation control plan requirements (Section 12-7-8)

This section specifies the required contents of an erosion and sedimentation control plan, such as a description of the proposed land-disturbing activities, a map of the site, and details of the BMPs to be implemented.

Enforcement and penalties (Sections 12-7-12 and 12-7-15)

These sections outline the enforcement powers of the commission and local issuing authorities, including the ability to issue stop-work orders, revoke permits, and impose civil and criminal penalties for violations of the ESCA.

It is essential for entities engaged in land-disturbing activities to consult the full text of the Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act and work closely with the relevant state and local agencies to ensure compliance with all applicable requirements and obtain project-specific guidance.

COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS & STANDARDS

Regulatory Standards & Limitations

The Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act establishes various standards and limitations to minimize soil erosion and sedimentation from land-disturbing activities1. These standards may include requirements for best management practices (BMPs), such as erosion control measures, sediment basins, and buffer zones along streams and other water bodies. The Act also sets forth performance standards, such as maximum allowable soil loss rates or turbidity levels in receiving waters2. These standards are typically implemented through permits issued by the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and enforced through regular inspections and monitoring of permitted sites3.

Monitoring, Reporting & Recordkeeping Obligations

Under the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act, regulated entities are subject to various monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements4. These may include obligations to conduct regular inspections of erosion and sediment control measures, monitor stormwater discharges for turbidity or other pollutants5, and maintain records of inspections, maintenance activities, and corrective actions taken5. Developers and consultants should work closely with the EPD and local issuing authorities to understand and fulfill the specific monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements applicable to their projects6. Failure to comply with these obligations can result in enforcement actions and penalties7.

Enforcement Actions & Penalties

The Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act provides for a range of enforcement actions and penalties for violations of the Act's requirements8. These may include notices of violation, administrative orders, and civil or criminal penalties9. The EPD and local issuing authorities have the power to issue stop-work orders, revoke permits, and require corrective actions to bring sites into compliance10. Civil penalties can be assessed at a rate of up to $2,500 per day for each violation, with higher penalties possible for repeat offenders11. To avoid enforcement actions and penalties, developers and consultants should prioritize proactive compliance and engage early and often with the relevant agencies12. Readers are encouraged to consult the full text of the Act and work closely with the EPD and local issuing authorities to understand the specific enforcement provisions and penalty structures that may apply to their projects13.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Recent Developments & Regulatory Outlook

The Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act has undergone several significant changes in recent years, with amendments and policy updates aimed at strengthening the regulation's effectiveness and clarifying its requirements for the regulated community.

One of the most notable recent developments was the passage of House Bill 463 in 2018, which introduced several key amendments to the Act. These amendments included:

  1. Expanding the definition of "land-disturbing activity" to include any activity that may result in soil erosion and the movement of sediments into state waters or onto lands within the state.
  2. Requiring the development and implementation of a comprehensive monitoring program to evaluate the effectiveness of erosion and sediment control measures.
  3. Increasing the minimum requirements for erosion and sediment control plans, including the use of best management practices (BMPs) and the establishment of minimum standards for the design and maintenance of these practices.

These amendments have had a significant impact on the regulated community, particularly developers and environmental consultants, who must now ensure that their projects comply with the enhanced requirements of the Act.

Looking ahead, there are several proposed regulatory changes and policy shifts that are likely to affect the implementation and interpretation of the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act in the near future. These include:

  1. The development of a new general permit for land-disturbing activities, which is expected to streamline the permitting process and provide greater clarity on the requirements for erosion and sediment control plans.
  2. The establishment of a new training and certification program for individuals involved in land-disturbing activities, which aims to ensure that all stakeholders have the necessary knowledge and skills to comply with the Act.
  3. The creation of a new online portal for submitting erosion and sediment control plans and permit applications, which is expected to improve the efficiency and transparency of the permitting process.

To stay informed about these and other developments related to the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act, stakeholders can:

  • Monitor the website of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) for updates and announcements.
  • Join the EPD's mailing list to receive regular updates on regulatory changes and policy developments.
  • Engage with industry associations, such as the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP) and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which often provide valuable insights and resources on environmental regulations.

By staying informed and engaged, stakeholders can better navigate the evolving regulatory landscape and ensure that their projects remain in compliance with the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Control Act.

Additional Resources

International Erosion Control Association (IECA) - Southeast Chapter: The Southeast Chapter of the IECA offers a variety of resources, including workshops, conferences, and networking opportunities for professionals involved in erosion and sediment control.

REFERENCES

  1. Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) § 12-7-6(a)

  2. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-6(b)

  3. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-7

  4. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-8

  5. Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission, "Manual for Erosion and Sediment Control in Georgia," 2016, accessed 2023-06-18. 2

  6. Georgia Environmental Protection Division, "Erosion and Sedimentation Control," accessed 2023-06-18.

  7. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-12

  8. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-12

  9. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-12(a)

  10. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-12(b)

  11. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-12(d)

  12. Georgia Environmental Protection Division, "Erosion and Sedimentation Control," accessed 2023-06-18.

  13. O.C.G.A. § 12-7-1 et seq.

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A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the ESCA. However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.