January 26, 2023

New Year, New Life - January 2023 E-News

Dear Friend,

A new year brings new opportunities to refocus on what's important. It brings new life to individual goals and aspirations, as well as collective efforts and impact. The issues covered in this e-mail, as well as other current projects our team is working on, highlight how we could certainly use some new life in the cultural and environmental protection of our unique coastal region.

To make this happen, we are in the final stages of adding two new members to the team, an Environmental Equity & Justice Specialist and a new Staff Attorney. Once hired, they will help us to take on more critical cases and issues across the state, enabling us to serve more people and tackle old and new environmental hazards, especially when threatening historically underserved and overburdened communities.

We are also looking forward to special events, including Palmetto Giving Day on May 2 and 3, and our inaugural participation in Midlands Gives on May 2. And, of course, planning is already underway for our 14th annual Wild Side event in Georgetown on October 7. It's going to be a great year!

As always, thank you for your steadfast support of your Lawyers for the Wild Side. We realize that we could not achieve our goals without you!

Appeal Filed on Gadsden Creek

A night heron rests on the banks of Gadsden Creek | Photo by John Sease

On Tuesday, January 3, on behalf of Friends of Gadsden Creek, we filed an appeal of the Administrative Law Court’s decision to uphold the DHEC permit issued to WestEdge allowing it to fill in and build over Gadsden Creek and the surrounding saltmarsh.

We are appealing this decision because it ignores the plain language of the critical area regulations and fails to correctly apply the policies of the South Carolina Coastal Zone Management Program. One of the goals of these policies, according to the Legislature, was to "protect, and where possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the State's coastal zone for this and succeeding generations." The restoration and enhancement aspect of this policy cannot be ignored.

We, along with Friends of Gadsden Creek, continue to urge the City of Charleston to explore viable alternatives. There is no question that there are feasible alternatives to prevent flooding in the area, including installing a muted tide gate or a berm. The ALC even acknowledged, “it is possible from an engineering perspective to restore the creek (and) protect it from the landfill.”

Read our recent statement on Gadsden Creek, or learn more about the case.

Amplifying the Voices of Historic Communities

A Cultural Protection Overlay District protects St. Helena Island from excessive development

Earlier this month, Beaufort County staff recommended an amendment to the Cultural Protection Overlay District (CPO) which would have opened the door for gated, golf course communities and resorts on St. Helena Island. This proposed amendment came on the heels of one such proposed development on Pine Island, a small hammock island in St. Helena Sound. The CPO has prevented resorts and gated golf course developments on St. Helena Island and surrounding communities since the 1990s, and was reaffirmed as recently as last year with the newest comprehensive plan.

SCELP joined other conservation and advocacy groups including the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, the Penn Center and the Coastal Conservation League in commenting and advocating for the Planning Commission to oppose any amendments to the CPO.

With your support, and the hard work of many groups and individuals, we were able to successfully urge the Beaufort County Planning Commission to vote no on amendments that would've opened the door for development in an area so important to the way of life and the economy of the Gullah/Geechee community. However, this is an ongoing issue - one we will continue to focus our efforts on.

We are excited to announce that we earned the top score from Charity Navigator, earning 100/100 points in all three eligible categories.

A rating by Charity Navigator helps give our donors confidence and enables SCELP to help more people turn their desire to protect the environment into meaningful change and impact.

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