COLUMBIA, SC — One of South Carolina’s most intense environmental battles during the past decade was decided Wednesday in the state Supreme Court, which ruled that coastal developers could not build a massive seawall on a flood-threatened sand spit near the ocean south of Charleston.
The seawall, proposed for a salty river at the back of the Kiawah Island spit, was intended to protect an area where about 50 high-end homes were planned on unstable property.
According to plans, the seawall would have been 9 football fields long and fortified by piles of rock along the Kiawah River. All told, the structure would have been about 40 feet wide and covered much of the sandy riverside shoreline that draws kayakers and beachcombers.
Amy Armstrong, the lead attorney challenging the seawall on behalf of conservation groups, called the ruling “fantastic’’ and a win for people who use public beaches.
“We can celebrate this,’’ said Armstrong, who is with the S.C. Environmental Law Project.
Attempts to reach Trenholm Walker, a Charleston lawyer representing the developers, were unsuccessful. Armstrong and Dana Beach, director of the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, said they can’t see how the homes could be built without the seawall that developers said they needed.
Beach said the Captain Sam’s area is too prone to erosion to develop, but is naturally beautiful and should be made available for the public to enjoy. Part of the spit is no wider than 450 feet. He said he plans to approach the developers, Kiawah Development Partners II, about selling an easement to the land so that it can remain natural.
“This further illustrates the obvious reality that there are places where there should be no building,’’ Beach said in an interview with The State newspaper. “These places are too unstable, too dynamic and too dangerous. Maybe the high profile of this case will cause more people to think about where they are buying and where they are building on the coast.’’
Wednesday’s 3-2 decision by the Supreme Court follows years of legal skirmishes between the league and Kiawah Development Partners II. The Supreme Court has made three different decisions on the case. The dispute stems from an appeal of a state Department of Health and Environmental Control decision against the seawall and rock revetment.
At one point, the dispute grew so hot that Armstrong and other conservationists said they were denied access to a boat launch on Kiawah Island not far from the project site. The development plan dates to at least 2005.
Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision hammered a lower court ruling that favored the developers. The court overturned the Administrative Law Court decision because it said:
• The public interest was not addressed properly in allowing for the seawall. The state’s coastal zone management law requires public tidelands to be for maximum public benefit, but the law court did not adequately examine whether the public would benefit from building the seawall.
“It was clear that only the developer, not the public, would benefit from the construction of this enormous bulkhead and revetment,” the court said.
• The lower court did not consider the impacts the seawall could have on the surrounding environment, not just the riverside beach.
• The lower court wrongly concluded that building the seawall and revetment would not affect public access to the beach along the river. It said the lower court did not look at whether a better alternative was to leave the area in a natural state, without the seawall.
The majority opinion repeatedly discussed the importance of the coastal environment to the public and the significance of Captain Sam’s Spit. The spit not only is near a county park popular with the public, but the area is frequented by birds, dolphins and other wildlife.
“Captain Sam’s Spit and the public tidelands along its margins are of great importance to the people of South Carolina,” the court said. “The tidelands present a bounty of benefits to the people ranging from environmental to recreational.
“Unlike much of our state’s coastline which is now armored and unnatural, the spit remains untouched by human alteration. The area, particularly the pristine sandy beach, is undoubtedly one of this state’s natural treasures.”
The area to be developed also is unstable. It has built up at times, but at other times has eroded. At one point in the 1940s, the spit did not exist because of erosion.
Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, in reversing the Administrative Law Court decision to approve permits for the seawall, technically sends the matter back to the lower court for review. But Armstrong and Beach said the high court’s decision was so resounding the lower court won’t have much room to rule differently.
The court’s ruling was made as battles are increasingly erupting over how to protect valuable beachfront real estate from rising seas and at the same time how people can develop land near the ocean. Last spring, developers of Captain Sam’s Spit asked the Legislature not to ban all development farther out on the beach. Lawmakers later refused to pass a bill to stop encroaching development on some beaches.
On Thursday, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board will consider reducing a $750,000 fine against a condominium association at the Isle of Palms, where an illegal seawall was built to protect buildings from the ocean. A DHEC committee indicated last month the fine would be reduced.
Seawalls are banned on oceanfront beaches in South Carolina, but allowed if they meet certain conditions along marshes and rivers just off the seashore, like in tidelands around Kiawah Island. Last spring, however, state legislators approved a new seawall on the beach at Debordieu near Georgetown, breaking with a quarter century of state policy against oceanfront seawalls.
Beach, whose group led the fight against the seawall and development, said the court decision is a victory for protecting the state’s coastline from unwise development. He praised Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn’s majority opinion.
“This is a monumentally important decision not only because it protects Captain Sam’s Spit, which Justice Hearn described as ‘one of the state’s natural treasures,’ but also because it broadly affirms the public’s primary interest in the marshes and tidelands that define and enrich the Lowcountry,” Beach said in an afternoon news release.
“Besides the positive implications of this ruling for wildlife and recreation, it also protects taxpayers from having to bail out the developers, who sought to build 50 houses on a dynamic, unstable sandbar. This is the end of the road for this ill-conceived project, and now is the time for all of us to work together to achieve permanent protection for this beautiful and unique place.”
Kiawah developer denied permits for Capt. Sams Spit sea walls
KIAWAH ISLAND - The state Supreme Court has ruled against granting a permit for a seawall and revetment on Capt. Sam's Spit - the wildlife-rich, 150-acre spit that is a prized piece of disappearing natural coast.
SC attorney general fights federal environmental rules
COLUMBIA, SC — Gov. Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson want the federal government to abandon a new environmental rule to protect streams and wetlands that harbor wildlife but which get in the way of development.
Lab Test Indicates Jellyfish Plant Discharge is Harmful, Company Disagrees
A company trying to process jellyfish in Beaufort County and ship them to Asia as food is met with protest from neighbors, fishermen, and boaters, because they fear the company's wastewater would harm the environment. The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has released the results of a toxicity test performed on the company's temporary operation of rinsing jellyfish in Jenkins Creek. The results show the discharge harmed its test subjects, but the company Carolina Jelly Balls believes the results found in the lab do not apply to the creek.
"In a sharp rebuke to state regulators, the S.C. Court of Appeals said it wants a plan within 90 days on how the landfill’s operator and the state’s environmental department will begin following rules to limit radioactive pollution after years of non-compliance."
SC Senate tacks on seawall exemption to resolution
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina Senate made it clear Tuesday that it is firm about giving the private Georgetown County community of Debordieu just three years to replace its aging barrier at the water's edge — a move that would be a revision to the state's 26-year-old ban on new seawalls
SCELP Board Member John Mark Dean's Letter to the Editor: Seawalls steal from the many to protect the few
COLUMBIA, SC — The increase in sea level is well-documented and is well-known by all scientists, engineers, planners and agency staffs charged with implementing policies of the coastal zone. Sea walls and groins accelerate the erosion of the beach and narrow the area of dry-sand beach at high tide. This will remain true as long as the sun is in the sky.
COLUMBIA, SC — South Carolina’s policy of letting people build closer to the ocean after renourishment projects temporarily widen beaches was supposed to end in July, but a proposal that could delay tighter controls on the practice has added fuel to a sizzling legislative fight over coastal development.
COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s 26-year-old seawall ban took another battering Thursday when a House committee voted to help an exclusive beach community rebuild a wall that protects fewer than 25 houses threatened by the ocean.
COLUMBIA, SC — Unmoved by calls to push development back from the beach as ocean levels rise, South Carolina lawmakers took steps Thursday that could allow new seawalls and more construction farther out on the state’s eroding shores.
SC Supreme Court hears arguments in York County landfill suit
COLUMBIA — The county’s seven-year legal battle with a private waste company over a proposed Rock Hill landfill made its way to state Supreme Court on Tuesday morning, where justices repeatedly raised questions over "authority" and "timing."
Senators side with gated Debordieu community in debate over public beach
COLUMBIA, SC — The S.C. Senate, in a departure from 26 years of coastal law, sided Tuesday with a handful of oceanfront landowners who want to protect resort homes from rising seas by rebuilding a seawall in their gated community north of Georgetown.
SC has not yet reapplied for federal cruise permit
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Seven months after a federal judge tossed out a permit for the South Carolina Ports Authority's planned $35 million cruise terminal, the agency has not yet reapplied for the federal approval.
Group appeals judge's ruling over Charleston cruise terminal
Neighborhood associations and preservationists are seeking to overturn a state judge's recent decision that tossed out a lawsuit challenging plans for a new cruise ship terminal in downtown Charleston.
Proposed industrial park in Bucksport pits environmentalists against developers, neighbor against neighbor
Like the traits and traditions that bind a family’s generations together, the Waccamaw River has etched its place in James Frazier’s family for nearly a century – both giving and taking life while remaining a steadfast friend.
But now, a proposal to build a 195-acre, industrial park along the river at the Bucksport Marina site, has divided this historically black community, putting Frazier at odds with some of his neighbors and environmentalists who are opposed to the plan.
Waccamaw River: Industrial park raises debate over jobs and environment By Jason Lesley
Officials with Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority, Santee Cooper and Horry County asked residents of Bucksport and environmentalists to trust them while they build an industrial park on the Waccamaw River.
SCELP won a critical VICTORY in the SC Supreme Court
SCELP won a critical VICTORY in the SC Supreme Court today that saves Laurens County from a large, unnecessary landfill and strikes a major blow against the trend in over-permitting landfills in this State. More to come in the following days, but this is a big win for all who are tired of rural South Carolina being the region's dumping ground! Huge Congratulations to SCELP's Amy Armstrong for successfully briefing and arguing the case!
Business leaders, environmentalists and residents debate marine industrial park at hearing
Great turnout at the public hearing for the Bucksport Industrial Marina yesterday! SCELP's Michael Corley was among the over 100 people in attendance, which included dozens of residents of the local Bucksport community and Horry County who expressed concerns about the environmental and economic impacts of this project.
Environmentalists want Bucksport industrial park put on hold, proponents say it’s not necessary
CONWAY — Environmental groups on Monday called for the Grand Strand Water & Sewer Authority to withdraw its permit application to build a marine industrial park along the Waccamaw River in Bucksport so further study can occur, something the authority’s executive director said isn’t necessary.
Environmentalists raise concerns, proponents tout benefits of Bucksport Marina Industrial Park
DHEC is holding this public hearing to consider whether it should grant a permit for the proposed industrial marina at Bucksport, a project that should concern EVERYONE - "environmentalist" or not. If you live in this community and value clean drinking water, want utility companies that charge and spend responsibly, and oppose special interest projects that benefit the few, please join us Monday to question the wisdom of this project!
Enjoy this video of the beautiful Angel Oak. SCELP’s legal efforts resulted in the settlement that has allowed this ancient tree and the woodlands surrounding it to be preserved so it can continue to be enjoyed by many generations to come.
Tom Rice legislation could give gated Inlet Harbour community access to federal funds
MURRELLS INLET — U.S. Rep. Tom Rice is sponsoring legislation that would make nearly two dozen of this town’s most expensive homes in the gated Inlet Harbour community eligible for flood insurance and other federal assistance, a move environmentalists say is bad policy and runs counter to the Republican Congressman’s pledge to limit government and reduce federal spending.
Barnwell nuclear waste dump: Are open pits a threat?
COLUMBIA, SC Rainfall that routinely washes over open pits of nuclear waste dominated discussion during a state Court of Appeals hearing Wednesday, as judges tried to determine whether they should force better disposal practices at a leaking garbage dump near Barnwell.
Leaks at Barnwell Nuclear Dump Focus of Court Hearing
BARNWELL COUNTY, SC — In the decade since environmentalists took legal action against a nuclear-waste landfill in South Carolina, garbage trucks have rumbled onto the site every month, carrying a continuous flow of radioactive trash.
And as heavy machinery has dumped hazardous refuse into burial pits, radioactive tritium has continued to pollute a tributary of the Savannah River just downhill from the state-owned site in rural Barnwell County.
This week, the Sierra Club goes back to court in the group’s fight for tighter controls on the dump. The S.C. Court of Appeals will hear arguments Wednesday that could force landfill operator Energy Solutions to change its burial practices, which the Sierra Club calls outdated and dangerous for the environment.
SCELP is arguing on behalf of the Sierra Club at the Court of Appeals on February 5, challenging the permit issued by DHEC to Chem Nuclear, which allows the facility to continue burying low-level radioactive waste in vaults that are not properly sealed and facilitate the spread of waste-contaminated water into groundwater supplies.
Pawleys Island: State tries to avoid county default on groin permit
The words appear in bold print. In capital letters. Underlined.
“Georgetown County is not abandoning the permit.”
The statement from Wesley Bryant, the county attorney, was filed with the state Administrative Law Court last month along with an argument from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control that the agency should be able to defend a permit issued to the county in 2012 for a 205-foot-long rock groin on the south end of Pawleys Island.
Funds drying up to check for toxic leaks near Lake Marion
COLUMBIA, SC — The state is running out of money to prevent leaks from a closed toxic waste landfill near Lake Marion and taxpayers are almost certain to make up a chunk of the shortfall – instead of a company that once ran the dump in rural Sumter County.
A handful of residents turned out for a public hearing presented by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The hearing was presented at the request of citizens who wanted to know more about Williamsburg County's application for demonstration-of-need to expand the Williamsburg County Class Two Landfill located behind the closed Class 3 municipal waste landfill on Gapway Road in Salters.
WYFF did a great investigative story about proposed legislation that would increase out-of-state waste from coming into South Carolina. Most of the legislators that support the bill accept campaign funds from the big out-of-state waste companies who are trying to make money by importing waste into SC. We need to ask our legislators to tell NY and NJ that we don't want their trash!
Capt. Sam's Spit development could imperil little-regarded marsh turtle on Kiawah Island Bo Petersen
KIAWAH ISLAND — A tiny snail could turn the sweeping marshes along Capt. Sam's Spit into mud flats. That's a little-talked-about, worst-case possibility in the controversy over building an embankment along the river bank here.
A Grass-Roots Rally To Protect South Carolina's Massive 'Angel Oak'
Visitors have flocked to the Angel Oak tree just outside Charleston, S.C., for generations. A local group has until late November to raise funds to buy a parcel of land that they say is needed to protect the live oak from development.
Pawleys Island: Town takes over county effort to get groin permit
The town of Pawleys Island will step in to defend a state permit that will allow Georgetown County to build a rock and concrete groin on the south end of the island. But the decision may come too late because the environmental groups that have challenged the permit are seeking a summary judgment in state court because the county failed to respond to filings in the appeal process.
Developers say Capt. Sam’s Spit homes won’t disrupt park or habitat; others disagree
KIAWAH ISLAND — The access road would cross through Beachwalker Park but not ruin it, the developers say. The homes they build on fragile Capt. Sam’s Spit would have risks, but so do other island sites.
Pawleys Island: Town may defend county’s permit for south end groin
Georgetown County won’t defend the state permit it received last year to build a rock groin on the beach in front of the parking lot it owns on the south end of Pawleys Island. The county started work in 2007 on the project to build a 205-foot-long groin to prevent erosion in front of the parking area and spent $108,500 on permits. But it will cost $75,000 to $100,000 to defend the permit from an appeal filed by environmental groups, according to Wesley Bryant, the county attorney.
Kiawah River erosion clips Beachwalker Park parking lot; environmentalists ask for new Capt. Sam’s Spit hearing
The eroding bank of the Kiawah River tore a small chunk from the Beachwalker Park parking lot over the weekend — a sign of the fragility of the battled-over environs of Capt. Sam’s Spit.
Meanwhile, the S.C. Environmental Law Project has petitioned the state Supreme Court to rehear the case over a proposed sea wall for a road planned from that parking lot to a proposed 50-home development on the spit. The court rarely rehears cases, and rehearing this one would be even less likely, but it has some chance, a law professor says.
A line in a lot of sand; Seabrook owner disputes re-cutting Capt. Sam’s Inlet
Capt. Sam’s Inlet is the focus of a dispute between property owners on Seabrook Island, one that is working its way through the court system. The argument is about whether or not to recut the inlet, changing the flow of sand down the beach.
As state’s wetlands dwindle, South Carolina seeks new answer
In the nearly 12 years since the U.S. Supreme Court eased federal protections on isolated wetlands, swampy South Carolina has talked at length about how to fill the gap and save these wildlife-rich bogs.
Capt. Sam's ruling is a win
Monday, November 28, 2011
Even diehard Cowboys fans can celebrate the dolphins' recent big win. The S.C. Supreme Court ruled last week that one of the marine mammals' favorite feeding spots may not be altered by a half-mile concrete sea wall.
For five years, the future of a centuries-old live oak tree has been the subject of a heated dispute on Johns Island: whether a new apartment complex will kill the iconic symbol of the Lowcountry.
Angel Oak boosters have waged a small war against developer Robert DeMoura, filing legal challenges and organizing political rallies in the hope of stopping his multi-phase development in Charleston County.
A case involving less than a quarter-acre of land in Pawleys Island has set a new precedent for wetlands protection in South Carolina.
The S.C. Supreme Court ruled 3-2 on Monday that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has jurisdiction over isolated wetlands, a reversal of the Georgetown County Circuit Court’s ruling and DHEC’s previous operating procedure.
“A landmark decision,’’ said Amy Armstrong, the director of the S.C. Environmental Law Project and a member of the Georgetown County League of Women Voters, which brought the suit against developer Smith Land Co. No one from DHEC was immediately available to comment.
Fight on to Save Lily Pond Arcadia Lakes; residents oppose dredging
One of the most visible ponds in
Richland County, a lake full of lily pads and
flowers on Trenholm Road, will be dredged
and converted into a storm water basin for an
apartment complex. But the plan by a Columbia development
company is causing an uproar in normally quiet Arcadia Lakes. The Town
Council and 16 residents are going to court next month to try to stop the work at the 1.3-acre lake, which sits just outside the town limits.. Click HERE to read the Article.
The S.C. Supreme Court dealt a smashing blow Monday to developers who have tried for years to overturn state rules
that safeguard coastal freshwater wetlands from unchecked development.
The decision, much anticipated by environmentalists and developers, overturns a 2008 lower-court verdict that declared
invalid state rules protecting freshwater wetlands along the coast.
Click HERE to read the Article.
Thousands of acres of coastal wetlands could lose protection from development if SC Supreme Court sides with a company that plans a commercial project on 62 acres in Murrells Inlet. Click HERE to read the Article.
COLUMBIA -- Conservationists fought in court today to stop what they see as the first step in the development
of 50 homes on an unstable portion of Kiawah Island.
Chief Administrative Law Judge Ralph Anderson III heard opening arguments by attorneys for the Kiawah
Development Partners, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Coastal Conservation
League. The Kiawah developers appealed DHEC's December decision to allow only 10 percent, or 270
feet, of the construction of an erosion barrier. The developers
want to build a 2,783-foot bulkhead and revetment to stop
erosion next to Beachwalker Park.
Click HERE to read the Article.
For close to four years, residents of Gray Court have fought to keep North Carolina-based MRR Highway 92 LLC from building a landfill near their homes in rural Laurens County. After forming a coalition called
Engaging and Guarding Laurens County's Environment, their vigorous
fight won a significant court battle when an administration law judge
rejected a permit to build the new landfill in Gray Court, saying the
company proposing the landfill did not sufficiently demonstrate it was
Click HERE to read the Article.
Critics Urge Changes in U.S. 601 Plan through Congaree National Park
The Department of Transportation plans to commence work on rebuilding several bridges on Hwy U.S. 601 through Congaree National Park next year. Critics have been asking DOT to replace more of the existing causeways with bridging to allow the safe passage of wildlife. A public hearing on the project was held on September 8, 2009. Click HERE to read an article on this issue that appeared in The State Newspaper on September 9, 2009.
ISLE OF PALMS — The Wild Dunes sandbag fiasco just sank a little deeper. The S.C. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that an island resident has the right to appeal a state permit that allows moving sand from public to private areas.
Author: Jimmy Chandler and Amy Armstrong
The Sun News' Jan. 25 article about the Heritage Shores Nature Park properly highlighted the fact that a small slice of nature has been preserved in the Cherry Grove area of North Myrtle Beach. The city of North Myrtle Beach deserves thanks for the series of boardwalks and trails, two picnic shelters and educational kiosks, as well as boat access to the creeks around Cherry Grove, that the park provides.
A dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday marked the opening of the Heritage Shores Public Nature Park in the Cherry Grove area of North Myrtle Beach.
The park - on 8 acres north of 55th Avenue North and Heritage Drive - has a series of boardwalks, two picnic shelters, boat access to the Cherry Grove marsh, two information kiosks, an observation station and a series of trails about two-thirds of a mile long.
By Jesse Tullos, email@example.com
The Georgetown Times
Butch Varnadore has heard news reports that say it’s foolish to invest money into new housing developments. He heard those reports about as much as he’s heard the hammering going on across the lake from his home on the Pawleys Island mainland.
With Lowe’s gone for the time being, what have we really accomplished?
The Georgetown Times - Editorials
The Waccamaw Neck community gathered together in an amazing display of public participation in the political process, and was able to stop Lowe’s dead in its tracks.
We came out to oppose the project, and we proved that we can have meaningful impact into what our community looks like. If only all planning and zoning decisions were always made this way — with input from the affected public.
Citizens gathered at a public hearing at Browns Ferry Elementary School Tuesday called South Carolina’s Central Electric Power Cooperative an arrogant government agency that has used intimidation and half-truths to secure rights-of-way for an 11-mile, 115,000-volt transmission line.
EDITORIALS Mining North Inlet should be unthinkable
There is a heaping chunk of gall in the DeBordieu Colony's request that the state allow it to take publicly owned sand from North Inlet to renourish its beach. The colony's beach is private. Yet the colony's community association wants to mine 200,000 cubic yards of sand from the nearby inlet to shore up its beach for about five years.