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Brunswick News – April 2, 2013 Local News
Wetlands cleanup agreement reached
By GORDON JACKSON The Brunswick News
Former Glynn County Commissioner Wayne Hutcheson has reached an agreement with environmental groups to restore 700 acres of wetlands damaged by 2.5 miles of roads and drainage ditches illegally constructed since 2005 on a tract off Ga. 99 in Sterling.
Under the agreement, the natural flow of freshwater through the wetlands and marsh across the property will be restored, pushing saltwater back out of the wetlands so cypress trees and other wildlife can flourish again, according to environmental groups that filed the complaint.
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the complaint on behalf of the Glynn Environmental Coalition, and the Altamaha and Satilla riverkeepers.
The settlement was reached after negotiations between Hutcheson and the environmental groups, the Georgia Coastal Resources Division and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"We're pleased that this settlement will lead to the restoration of wetland forest," said Daniel Parshley, director of the Glynn Environmental Coalition.
"Hopefully, it will be the first step toward restoring several square miles of dead forest impacted by years of unwise ditching and draining, which allowed saltwater to move inland and kill the forest."
Hutcheson, who served four years on the county commission in the early 1980s, is required to remove non-permitted roads through the salt marsh and breech the remaining roads 20 feet wide and plug some ditches to restore the flow of water. Once the road breeches and drain plugs are in place, Hutchenson will be required to plant as many as 6,000 native wetland trees, including cypress, on the areas of the property suitable for planting.
"Cypress is such a part of our heritage on the Georgia coast," said Deborah Sheppard, executive director of the Altamaha Riverkeeper. "We are very happy to see that cypress will be growing again on this 700-acre tract."
Last summer, the Glynn County Commission denied a request by Hutcheson for $21,150 that would fund part of a conservation easement to create a legally enforceable land preservation agreement.
In return, the county would be allowed to continue to use roads on the property to spray for mosquitoes and maintain a mile-long drainage canal known as the Hutcheson Ditch.
The land will be protected under a conservation agreement by the Georgia Land Trust.
Hutcheson did not return a call to his residence for comment.