Thursday, May 8, 2014
The S.C. House of Representatives is expected to vote next week on a bill that would allow property owners in DeBordieu to rebuild an aging seawall that is the only thing standing between their houses and ocean.
The S.C. Senate passed its version of the bill last week. If the Houses passes it, it would go to Gov. Nikki Haley.
The bill would allow an exception to a 1988 coastal protection law, which banned the creation of new seawalls. It would also put a three-year time limit on the rebuilding of the seawall.
State Sen. Ray Cleary pushed for the bill because he said this would not be a new seawall somewhere where they currently isn’t one. He believes if there’s an existing seawall or groin, those should be “grandfathered in.”
Cleary pointed out that Folly Beach and Fripp Island got permanent exemptions, and wondered if people would be against a new seawall if The Battery in Charleston was damaged.
“I guess if it’s Charleston it makes a difference,” he said. “All we want to do is let people protect their property.”
Emerson Gower, who has lived in DeBordieu for two-and-a-half years, but not on the beach, said the seawall has been protecting 60 properties for more than 30 years.
He believes the seawall should be rebuilt.
“It has done a great job of protecting those properties,” Gower said.
Gower pointed out that DeBordieu property owners have spent millions of dollars of their own money over the years for beach renourishment projects, and will use their own money to rebuild the seawall.
He estimates it will cost between $800 and $1,000 per linear foot to replace the seawall.
Cleary said the new seawall will have to made of the same materials as the old one and approved by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Gower said people rally to protect sea turtles and other endangered species, trees and nature resources, so why not the seawall.
“To let it dwindle and disappear would be a great loss,” he said.
Blanche Brown, general manager of the Deborideu Colony Community Association, said if a new seawall isn’t built and the old one fails, the loss of the properties would be an economic hit to Georgetown County. Most of those properties are taxed at a higher rate, she said.
Nancy Cave, North Coast director of the Coastal Conservation League, said the league does not oppose the bill because of three-year time limit and requirement of DHEC oversight.