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John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System Boundary Revision

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Location: Washington, DC


JOHN H. CHAFEE COASTAL BARRIER RESOURCES SYSTEM BOUNDARY REVISION -- (House of Representatives - September 12, 2006)

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding and want to thank both the majority Member and the minority Member for letting me talk a little bit about Jekyll Island.

During the course of the bill, we were having an immigrations hearing in Cannon, and I came over here as quickly as I could; but I wanted to talk somewhat about the bill, which I understand the Resources Committee has accepted, and I certainly appreciate that.

A lot of people have done a lot of hard work on it, but I just wanted to say that the importance of this legislation, which is agreed to, goes back to the history of Jekyll Island, which is a barrier island off the coast of Georgia.

In 1947, Jekyll was purchased by the State of Georgia. In 1950, the State legislature enacted a law that said 65 percent of the island would stay in its preserved and natural state and only 35 percent of it would be developed. The 35 percent of it was developed in the 1960s and 1970s, long before the CBRA law about flood insurance and the Coastal Barrier Resource Act.

The State has maintained that 35/65 percent split; and all the 35 percent is, in fact, built out. Yet, somewhere along the line, it got included in the CBRA law, which made it the case that residents could no longer get flood care, which was not the point of the law at all.

We found out about this in 2003, when Walter Alexander, a resident of Jekyll Island, had his duplex burned down. He was cleaning up the land and preparing to rebuild his structure when he found out he could not get Federal flood insurance, and that was because of a quirk that happened in 1990. And we have been working on this since 2003 trying to get this exemption from the flood insurance law so that the people on Jekyll Island could in fact go back to getting flood care the way they had it.

So this has been something we have been working on for a long time. A lot of people had been involved in it, and I certainly want to thank Chairman Pombo and Subcommittee Chairman GILCHREST, and Edith Thompson, who is on the staff; and Harry Burroughs, who is the staff director for Mr. Gilchrest; and folks like Bill Donahue and Laura Bonds, who are with the Jekyll Island Authority back home. Also, Pat Wilson, with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Commissioner Noel Holcomb, Becky Kelly and Susan Shipman; and the Fish and Wildlife folks and the residents and businesses on Jekyll Island.

We have all worked on this in a collaborative effort. There has not been any opposition on this. Democrats, Republicans, and environmentalists. I would say developers, but developers have not been at the table since all this has already been developed for now about 30 or 40 years.

But I just wanted to say this is a very good day for the folks on Jekyll Island, and I thank both of you for allowing me to speak up about this issue.

Before I get into specifics of my bill I want to thank everyone who has helped in the lengthy process to bring this bill to the floor.

Thank you to Chairmen Pombo and Gilchrest and their staff, specifically Edith Thompson (Gilchrest) and Harry Burroughs (Staff Director for Gilchrest subcommittee but Pombo person). Also Merritt Meyers and Rob Asbell from our office.

Thank you to the Jekyll Island Authority--the relentless work of Bill Donahue and Laura Bonds, the Governor's office with assistance from Pat Wilson, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (Commissioner Noel Holcomb, Becky Kelly and Susan Shipman), the Fish and Wildlife Service and the residents and businesses on Jekyll Island.

History: 1947--Jekyll Island purchased by the State from the Jekyll Island Club; 1950--Georgia General Assembly enacted a law that assured 65 percent of the Island would be preserved and protected in its natural state and managed for future generations to enjoy while 35 percent be developed to render the Island as self-supporting.

The 35 percent of the island that could be developed largely was during the 1960s and early 1970s--long before the original CBRA.

The State, working through state laws has moved to aggressively create a balance among development, public access and education and conservation long before Jekyll Island was included in the CBRS and that balance is now in jeopardy as redevelopment is critical to the viability of the Island.

If anything, Jekyll Island should be the model for the rest of the U.S. to use for the coexistence of development and conservation and quite honestly the dependence of one on the other.

I was contacted by Jekyll Island resident, Walter Alexander in 2003 because his duplex burned down. As Mr. Alexander began cleaning up the land and planning for replacing the structure he found out that he could not obtain Federal Flood Insurance, the insurance he must have in order to get a mortgage--and private flood insurance was prohibitively expensive for him.

He contacted the Jekyll Island Authority and together they began researching and found out that Jekyll Island in its entirety was included as an Otherwise Protected Area within the CBRS in 1990. The situation became even more urgent when he saw that in his original lease if he did not rebuild within 2 years he could lose the land.

Almost immediately after the fire Mr. Alexander started receiving offers to purchase the lot lease from wealthy individuals that could build the house without having to take out a mortgage. He turned down these offers because he wanted to stay close to his family who all lived on the Island.

Mr. Alexander is a nurse, and does not have a salary that allows him to rebuild without a mortgage--he was finally forced to take drastic action and borrow money against the equity in his parent's home so he could begin construction--this greatly reduces their family security during retirement. He is using this money to rebuild a duplex that not only meets, but exceeds FEMA regulations for flooding.

This is but one example of what denying insurance for rebuilding a community developed in the 1960s does--this is not what CBRS original intent was.

Arguments: (1) Jekyll Island should not have been included in 1990 on the CBRS maps as an OPA because it was ``developed'' long before it was included in the system; (2) prior to the inclusion, the Governor and the Department of Natural Resources of Georgia objected to the inclusion of Jekyll Island in the System; (3) the inclusion of Jekyll Island runs counter to congressional intent as OPA's were to include only Undeveloped lands held for conservation; and (4) the inclusion of Jekyll Island runs counter to State intent as 35 percent of the island by Georgia law must be developed, and is necessary to be developed to render the Island self-supporting.

Need for Change: I strongly believe that if the 35 percent of the island that is developed is not removed from the CBRS the long term integrity of the system will be harmed.

If the original intent of the Act was to preserve undeveloped coastal barrier islands then I think leaving Jekyll Island in, in its entirety would set a bad precedence for the CBRS.

This legislation removes land from the Coastal Barrier Resources System, specifically from a unit that should not have been created in the first place since it was neither undeveloped nor held for conservation purposes.

The Fish and Wildlife Service supports my bill and the new map associated with it that removes 35 percent of Jekyll Island from CBRA.

Leaving the 35 percent of Jekyll which has long been developed in the CBRS would ultimately do two things: (1) the Island would turn into a run down shanty town with deteriorating houses and businesses. It would lose its allure to tourists across the world and would ultimately become a burden to the State since it would no longer be self-sustaining or (2) it would again become a playground for only the rich and famous who could afford the costly Lloyds of London flood insurance required to build, maintain, repair and update all structures on the island--and that is not fair to the hardworking tax-paying people who currently call Jekyll Island home or inexpensive vacation spot.

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