No hopper dredging in Brunswick Harbor due to sea turtle nesting

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed it will not use hopper dredges in Brunswick Harbor during spring or summer months until it conducts a rigorous environmental review of potential impacts, One Hundred Miles (OHM) and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) said.

USACE photo

Since 2021, OHM and SELC have fought against efforts by the Corps to remove longstanding restrictions that prohibited maintenance dredging between April 1 and December 14 , including during spring and summer nesting season for when there are more sea turtles, especially nesting females, in Georgia’s shipping channels.

In December 2022, OHM and SELC filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, arguing that the Corps failed to conduct a sufficient environmental review of year-round dredging, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

As a result of the lawsuit, the Corps announced it would not move forward with year-round hopper dredging in Brunswick Harbor at this time and would instead undertake a thorough review of the environmental impacts to sea turtles, fisheries, and other wildlife.

Hopper dredging uses suction pumps to suck up sediment from the bottom of the harbor, and marine life – including female turtles that are present during spring and summer nesting season – are often killed or maimed in the process, said OHM.

To avoid these impacts, the Corps has restricted hopper dredging in Georgia’s harbors to winter months for the past three decades – a practice OHM and SELC’s lawsuit sought to preserve.