CCL – DeBordieu amendment threatens state beach protection

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Beach Protection

The S.C. Senate is scheduled to being debate on a bill this week that will effectively roll back 25+ years of beach protection policy . . . all because one small community of homeowners in Debordieu has decided they no longer want to be subject to the law.

S.890, by Senator Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown), was introduced with the intention of being a legislative tool to implement the recommendations of the DHEC-appointed Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) on Shoreline Management.

As originally drafted, this bill would have made helpful changes to the Beachfront Management Act to benefit businesses, homeowners and those across the state that recreate on our world-renowned, wide and sandy beaches.

Unfortunately, the road from the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee to the Senate floor has been a rather bumpy ride, and the bill as it stands now is carrying within it a short-sighted, special interest exemption to the “no new seawalls” policy the state has wisely upheld since 1988.

A small group of Debordieu community oceanfront residents is requesting a blanket exemption to the “destroyed beyond repair” rule for their long-standing seawall. Under the current law, when a seawall is damaged more than 50%, the property owners are not permitted to rebuild it but rather must seek alternative options to manage their property. They are, however, permitted to maintain and make certain repairs to their current wall without having to seek a permit or OCRM approval.

The law was put into place based upon scientific evidence that seawalls and other hardened structures placed on the beach ultimately increase erosion to neighboring properties. The minimal amount of protection they provide to one home offers a false sense of security at best, as seawalls cannot prevent hurricane and major storm damage completely, and do nothing to offset the destruction to the public beach immediately next door and further down the coast.

In this instance, Hobcaw Barony, a 16,000-acre wildlife refuge and research institute, is a short 2 miles down the beach from Debordieu and could see direct effects of increased erosion resulting from a new seawall.

Merrill McGregor

Director of Government Relations

Coastal Conservation League

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