July 25, 2022

Two Wins for the Mountains and Marshes - July 2022 E-News

Dear Friend,

After 20 years with SCELP, I still find each new victory we secure for the land, water and communities of this state to be just as exciting as the first. July has been a month of good news and positive progress in several cases.

Last Wednesday, July 20, we learned that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded the District Court's dismissal of our lawsuit against Arabella Farm. The decision gives us a path forward in this important case and could also have far reaching consequences when it comes to holding polluters accountable and ensuring that citizens' suits can proceed in the face of informal (and ineffective) state administrative actions.

On Thursday morning, we also got final word that Circuit Court Judge Marvin Dukes upheld the Beaufort County Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision to deny a special use permit needed for construction of a luxury resort on fragile Bay Point Island. We celebrated with our clients, the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association, but this case is not closed yet - we still have work to do to ensure that Bay Point is truly protected from senseless development.

At the other end of our beautiful coastline, we expect that the sale of a large parcel of land on Waties Island to Open Space Institute will happen any day now - a wonderful conservation outcome for part of this invaluable resource north of Myrtle Beach.

You are making all of this possible with your generosity, and I am particularly thankful for each Business and Friends & Family sponsorship for our 13th annual Wild Side event on September 17. Tables and tickets are still available for this enchanting evening of food, music and fun. Not only does the event make a fantastic date night or outing with friends, family and fellow advocates for the Wild Side of South Carolina, it also provides crucial funding for yet more victories from the Mountains to the Marshes.

A Path Forward for Precious Trout Streams in Pickens County

The Eastatoe River and Little Eastatoe Creek provide an important habitat for the area's trout population

The path to holding Arabella Farm accountable remains!

For the past five years, the construction of a Pickens County wedding venue - Arabella Farm - has caused discharges of sediment-laden stormwater which clogged crucial tributaries and degraded valuable water resources that support the area’s trout population and related recreational activities.

On behalf of Upstate Forever, South Carolina Trout Unlimited and Naturaland Trust, we initiated legal action against the owners and operators of the site for these egregious violations of the Clean Water Act. In March 2021, the suit was dismissed on dubious procedural grounds. We appealed the dismissal and SCELP attorney Mike Martinez presented oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in May 2022.

On Wednesday, July 20, the court released its decision, announcing that it reversed and remanded the District Court's dismissal of our lawsuit against Arabella Farm! The decision is a victory for all who want to hold polluters accountable and is a step toward ensuring the public is properly informed about potential impacts to their local waterways. Read more...

Victory for Bay Point Island, Again!

A resort has no place on this shifting barrier island | Photo by Nurnberg Photography

A developer has been trying to build a luxury resort with 50 units, a spa, wellness center, fitness center, restaurants and bars on this shifting island since 2016. On Thursday, July 21, Circuit Court Judge Marvin Dukes upheld the Beaufort County Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision to deny a special use permit needed for construction of the resort.

“We have continued to fight for our sacred ancestral lands and the waters that surround us because these are the places that have allowed our families to be self-sufficient for generations and we want these places to remain safe and healthy for future generations to do the same," said Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.

While the decision is great news, Bay Point is still at risk. In 2021, the same developer was granted a permit to construct a 4,000-square-foot villa on the island, complete with state-issued a septic permit that put our local water quality at risk. Alongside our conservation partners, we will continue to fight for Bay Point Island until it is permanently protected. Read more...

Working to Erode Sandbags and Seawalls

Permanent sandbag walls are illegal and interfere with the nesting activities of endangered sea turtles

On Monday, July 25, your Lawyers for the Wild Side were busy in the courtroom arguing against a motion to dismiss our case on behalf of the Coastal Conservation League, fighting out-of-state owners who illegally installed four massive sandbag seawalls on Debidue Beach. We recently learned how significant the collaboration was between attorneys for these homeowners and scientists at Coastal Carolina University who drafted a "research" proposal that ultimately convinced DHEC to allow the sandbags to stay.

This case is significant across the coastal areas of the state because it will set the precedent for how DHEC will manage our shoreline in the future - a future that includes accelerating sea level rise and continued issues with beach erosion.

As staff attorney Leslie Lenhardt explained in The State article, “If people are going to be able to use these loopholes to do whatever they want to do on the beach to protect houses, we’re going to end up with an armored beach,’’ she said. “What you are going to have is a wall and the ocean in front of private homes, but there isn’t going to be any beach for the public to enjoy.’’ Read more...

Thank You, Wild Side Sponsors!

Thank you to all the sponsors who are supporting this year's Wild Side, including: Polymer Ventures, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Nelson Mullins, Research Planning Inc. and Tito's Handmade Vodka!

Tickets are now on sale for this wonderful event, which will feature guest speaker, author Virginia Christian Beach. Her books include Rice & Ducks: The Surprising Convergence that Saved the Carolina Lowcountry and the just published history of Middleton Place, American Landmark, sharing great insight and appreciation for the land use challenges and conservation success in the Lowcountry. Our guests will also be able to enjoy fantastic food, cocktails, music by Prettier Than Matt and waterfront views from the lawn of this historic home. Our online auction, which opens on September 10, will offer the opportunity to bid on unique items and experiences.

Do you want your business to be included in our next monthly e-News? It's not too late to sponsor! Contact Alison Geer, alison@scelp.org or (843) 527-0078.

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