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Georgia Law students selected as summer Sea Grant Legal Program fellows

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Georgia Law students selected as summer Sea Grant Legal Program fellows

Monday, June 29, 2015

Congratulations to third-year student Joseph Patrick “J.P.” Hackney and second-year student Emily C. Wyche, who have been selected as legal fellows with the Georgia Sea Grant Legal Program. The two students are spending 10 weeks as paid fellows during the summer working with legal and policy experts to address environmental questions facing policymakers in coastal Georgia communities.

Hackney is working with the city of St. Marys in an effort to procure a favorable community rating under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new guidelines for flood insurance. The work involves identifying flood hazards and methods to reduce them by using city ordinances and other legal methods, with the goals of minimizing flood risk and resulting in lower flood insurance costs for the area. St. Marys is among the first group of Georgia’s coastal communities that is seeking be evaluated under FEMA’s new system. Successful strategies and resources utilized by this coastal town will be shared with other Peach State ocean front cities so they can enlist in FEMA’s Community Rating System and/or improve their scores.

Hackney said his work in this area is like “a perfect circle” as it uses “good research by members of the coastal community that is distilled by legal minds” and then “shared with communities for practical implementation” that will benefit many, with the process repeating in future years.

Additionally, Hackney is updating a water law chapter in a conservation law treatise.

Wyche is working on identifying the changes made since 1997 to the Georgia Coastal Management Plan policies in order to inform federal facilities so they can work toward compliance with the updated state policies. She is researching legislative amendments, rules and regulations, in addition to court and administrative decisions to ensure the text is up to date. She is also conducting legal research related to the potential duties and liabilities of local governments in regard to taking adaptive measures like the maintenance of water and sewer services, roads, drainage, erosion and flood control works, among others, as well as what liabilities communities may face if they choose to discontinue such measures in flood-prone areas.

As part of her work, Wyche participated in a stakeholder meeting in Brunswick, Georgia, regarding new legislation on marsh buffer zones. While there, she assisted in gathering information that the Environmental Protection Division will use to develop rules and regulations for new legislation. “[It] was a really fantastic learning experience because it provided a wide array of perspectives – from individuals concerned for the environment, individuals concerned about property rights and representatives from the Sierra Club and local enforcement agencies,” she said.

The Georgia Sea Grant Legal Program is a partnership between Georgia Sea Grant and UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Members of the team overseeing the work of the Sea Grant fellows include lawyers J. Scott Pippin (J.D.'06), Institute of Government public service faculty, and Shana Jones, Institute of Government planning and environmental services unit program manager and director of the Georgia Sea Grant Law Program.

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