FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Meaghan Gerard
Communications and Administrative Director
Southern Environmental Law Center
Contact: Emily Driscoll, 404-521-9900
Director of Program Communications
HANCOCK COUNTY ADOPTS ORDINANCES TO PROTECT OGEECHEE RIVER, RESIDENTS
Update petitioned by Ogeechee Riverkeeper and drafted by Southern Environmental Law Center
Last week, the Hancock County Board of Commissioners amended its zoning ordinance to require some special use permit applicants to explain in detail how their proposal would impact the surrounding community and environment.
In March 2021 Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) helped organize a group of concerned citizens to prevent the development of a quarry in Hancock County. The site was along the banks of the Ogeechee River and immediately adjacent to a residential neighborhood. County commissioners ultimately denied the special use permit to the developers, but the process revealed just how vulnerable the county’s rural areas are to other damaging developments.
ORK and Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) worked with local citizens and municipal officials to draft the amendments for Hancock County. The updates require the permit applicant to provide a community impact assessment that analyzes environmental conditions, water and air pollution, and truck traffic. Importantly, it also requires information on vulnerable populations, socioeconomic standards, public health data and protection, and other demographic data. The developer must now submit all of this information with their application.
“These changes bring added transparency for the public and for county officials when considering a permit application,” says Damon Mullis, riverkeeper and executive director of ORK. “Both county residents and leaders need to know the true effects these proposals will have on their quality of life.”
ORK opposed the quarry development due to its proximity to the Ogeechee River, and possible adverse effects on water quality, potential damage to the aquifer that locals use for drinking water, and likelihood of it becoming a pollution source. While residents’ reasons varied, concerns included complications from silica dust, negative health effects to livestock, infrastructure damage, social and housing inequities, disturbance to local businesses and tourism industry, historic property damage, and more.
Mullis added: “We appreciate the Hancock County commissioners for recognizing the need to make these improvements. We are confident that they will protect the community and our environment.”
About Ogeechee Riverkeeper: Ogeechee Riverkeeper 501(c)(3) works to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River basin, which includes all of the streams flowing out to Ossabaw Sound and St. Catherine’s Sound. The Canoochee River is about 108 miles long and the Ogeechee River itself is approximately 245 miles long. The Ogeechee River system drains more than 5,500 square miles across 22 counties in Georgia. More at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.
ORK’s statement regarding the quarry defeat (March 2021)
Catfish and the Quarry – The Bitter Southerner (October 2021)