South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

The Heat is On against False Crawls and Plastic Walls
Posted: February 10, 2016

On December 6, SCELP filed an Endangered Species Act case on behalf of Sierra Club and South Carolina Wildlife Federation that seeks to protect endangered sea turtles. This case is the culmination of an ill-advised "experiment," whereby the South Carolina legislature provided backdoor authorization for plastic seawalls (known as "Wave Dissipation Systems") to be constructed in front of oceanfront houses on Harbor Island and Isle of Palms. Such devices have long been recognized as representing bad science and policy, and SCELP has been involved in opposing and monitoring the Systems since they were first proposed.

Last summer, sea turtles attempting to nest were blocked by the Wave Dissipation Systems at both Harbor Island and Isle of Palms. Sightings of false crawls, which occur when a sea turtle comes up on the beach in an attempt to nest but fails to do so and returns to the ocean, were reported in front of the devices. In response, SCELP began pursing legal avenues for having the seawalls removed as quickly as possible, including the requisite preliminary steps for the Endangered Species Act case that we have now filed.

Since the filing of our case, DHEC staff has recommended the removal of these walls, but the DHEC Board disagreed, deciding to allow the walls to remain in place for another year. The supporting documentation for the staff recommendation is available here.

We anticipate filing a challenge to the DHEC Board decision once it issues a written order.

Download available Press Release ESA Complaint

Download available Seawalls Factsheet