Water and Wetlands

Bernholz Commercial Docking Facility

We successfully defended Goat Island, a quaint natural island in Charleston County, against a proposal that could have changed the island’s character. Charleston County has designated Goat Island as a Special Purpose District for Natural Resource Management.
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Goat Island is a small slice of natural, pristine beauty in Charleston County. The island does not have any serviceable roads and the residents enjoy the quiet, relaxed lifestyle of the island due in large part to difficulty accessing the island – the islanders transport all their goods by boat.

The thirty full-time residents had long enjoyed the relaxed, quiet, slow-paced living on the island. In exchange, they have to transport all their goods by boat – everything from groceries and water to large appliances and building materials. Residents access the island by driving their boats from the mainland to private docks. These docks are all four-feet wide. A new resident and owner of several lots on Goat Island decided he wanted to change the way of life on Goat Island. Although he already has an existing four-foot wide dock, the resident applied for a permit for a commercial-sized docking structure that would open up the island for large-scale development and change forever the unique character of the island.

SCELP presented testimony and evidence establishing harm to the wetlands, as well as to the unique character of Goat Island.

The structure was to be built of 12' x 208' metal grating and allow him to drive trucks with construction materials from a barge onto a number of Goat Island properties that he and his family owned. OCRM denied the permit because it was far in excess of any docking structure that the agency has ever permitted, and in violation of their regulations. In addition, the structure would prevent sunlight from reaching the 2,500 square feet of vegetated wetlands that would be covered by the structure, resulting in the loss of Spartina alterniflora and other marsh grasses. These marsh grasses form the basis of the food chain for crabs, fish and shrimp.

The applicant appealed the denial, and SCELP was granted intervention on behalf of the Coastal Conservation League to defend the denial. Administrative Law Judge Marvin Kittrell held a hearing in the spring of 2006 in Columbia. ALJ Marvin F. Kittrell held a hearing on May 4, 2006, and issued an opinion upholding the denial of the permit on March 15, 2007.

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