Applying new regulatory criteria to protect riparian buffer zones
Champagne, Alice J. M.
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The Riparian Buffer Protection Program is one of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s primary initiatives for protecting water quality and streamside (riparian) greenspace along the Chattahoochee River and its tributaries. In recent years, there has been significant degradation to natural stream buffers throughout the river basin due to development, which has begun to focus on land previously viewed as undesirable, such as floodplains and riparian areas. As a result, water quality in these waterways is declining. A recently-revised variance process, which allows encroachment in stream buffers, given certain conditions, is provided by the Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Act (GESA) and regulated by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD). Key components of Riverkeeper’s Buffer Program include: (1) review of EPD’s variance permitting program through analysis of individual applications and the agency’s enforcement actions, (2) evaluation of buffer variance criteria for effectiveness and policy reform, (3) educational workshops and materials for the public and the regulated community to better understand stream buffer laws, and (4) support of continuing scientific research on the role of stream buffers in protecting water quality.