August 25, 2022

Sammy Fretwell, The State

Affluent coastal property owners win SC court case in their fight against rising seas

Affluent property owners at a South Carolina beach have scored a court victory that allows them to keep a wall of sandbags they were accused of installing illegally to protect their homes from rising seas. An administrative law judge recently sided with a handful of property owners at Debordieu, dismissing a case that could have forced the sandbags to be removed. The decision is likely to be appealed by environmentalists who want the sandbag walls taken out. The case is significant for multiple reasons, including whether leaving the bags in place will eventually make beach erosion worse at Debordieu’s southern end. While sandbags protect homes threatened by the sea, they also can speed up erosion of the public beach when hit by waves.

Leslie Lenhardt, an attorney for the S.C. Environmental Law Project, said she has asked Administrative Law Judge Robert Reibold to reconsider his decision. If that effort is not successful, the group will appeal the decision to the state Court of Appeals, she said. The non-profit legal service represents the Coastal Conservation League. Environmentalists had challenged the DHEC board’s decision to allow the sandbags to stay in place, saying they were bad for the beach and against state law. The sandbag walls are on the extreme lower end of a sagging seawall at Debordieu, a gated community near Pawleys Island in Georgetown County.

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