Steve O’Day, Smith, Gambrell & Russell’s Environmental Law Practice Group lead partner, is making a fight against a development near Savannah his personal cause. O’Day has been named Senior Litigation Counsel by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), and as his first task, will take over their fight against Emerald Pointe, a development which recently was granted a permit to build three bridges across state-owned marshlands.
“Smith, Gambrell & Russell is supportive of Steve’s commitment to the SELC organization,” said Steve Forte, Managing Partner, “for through his quest against Emerald Pointe, Smith, Gambrell & Russell is also making a commitment to protecting our state’s environment.”
In his role for SELC, O’Day, who is a member of SELC’s Board of Trustees, will represent three environmental groups (Sierra Club, Center for a Sustainable Coast and Altamaha Riverkeeper) in the Emerald Pointe case. The groups are opposing the decision of an administrative law judge in March 2002, which granted the developer the ability to proceed with constructing the bridges.
In February 2001, the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee of the State Department of Natural Resources approved a permit request by Emerald Pointe Development to build three private bridges over state-owned marshland off the mainland in Savannah, GA. The bridges would allow Emerald Pointe to proceed with plans to build up to 40 high-end houses with a community dock or marina. The bridges would link three marsh hammocks, which are higher-elevated islands surrounded by tidal marsh that help slow mainland erosion and provide refuge for marsh wildlife.
According to the organizations Mr. O’Day is defending through SELC, the bridges would shade marshland, killing plant and animal life and disrupting the marine ecosystem. Polluted runoff from the residential and marina development pose additional risk to the ecosystem. The approval of this permit also worries environmental groups as it sets a precedent for the approval of other development permits on the approximately 730 hammocks in coastal Georgia counties. The permit was contested in 2001, and was upheld in March 2002.
A graduate of Furman University and Harvard Law School, Mr. O’Day has focused his practice on environmental litigation, consultation and negotiations during his 20 plus years. He has advised clients in connection with the full range of environmental legislation and common law issues, including issues related to Georgia’s coast and its valuable coastal marshlands.
In 1986, he was a founding board member of the Southern Environmental Law Center, the only regional non-profit organization devoted to protecting and restoring the South’s natural resources. In addition to Georgia, SELC works in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia on conservation issues including coastal resources, wetlands, wildlife habitat, southern forests, and clean air and water. SELC has offices in Atlanta and Chapel Hill, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, VA. For more information on SELC, the organization’s web address is www.SouthernEnvironment.org.