South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Administrative Law Judge OKs Captain Sams Spit Development for the Third Time
Posted: September 25, 2018

Administrative Law Judge Ralph King Anderson, III, issued a Final Order and Decision on September 24, 2018, authorizing the construction of a road, steel sheetpile wall, and other infrastructure to facilitate a 50-house development on the pristine and fragile barrier island spit. For a decade the South Carolina Environmental Law Project and the Coastal Conservation League have been fighting the ill-advised plans to develop on these shifting sands. The first case went to the Supreme Court four times, with the groups ultimately prevailing, resulting in ruling in April of this year which concluded that the public benefits to preserving the Spit outweighed any benefits to developing it.

More than a year after the trial, conducted in August 2017, and ignoring once more the clear indication from the latest Supreme Court’s ruling, the ALC concluded that the “economic benefits of developing the upland” outweigh preservation of the riverbank and Spit, authorizing the project to proceed.

While the permit was issued based on DHEC’s May 2016 critical line measurements, nearly two and a half years have passed and the shoreline has eroded further, to the point that the road cannot be built without impacting DHEC’s critical area. Yet, the permit is conditioned on the project having no impacts on the critical area. The ALC’s ruling simply fails to address the reality of a consistently and severely eroding shoreline, along with the dangers of building in a vulnerable location. If we learn one thing from the natural disasters currently threatening our State, it is that we should not place people and structures directly in harm’s way, particularly in the era of sea level rise, regular hurricanes, and major flooding.”

You can read below our joint press releases with the Coastal Conservation League, our partner in this 10-year saga, which is now poised to last even longer. Needless to say, we are appealing this most recent disappointing, albeit unsurprising, decision and will do all we can to ensure that Captain Sams Spit will remain undeveloped and protected.


On October 9 we filed a motion for reconsideration with Judge Anderson, who reaffirmed his ruling on December 14. Therefore, on January 15 we appealed the decision before the Court of Appeals. We are not giving up, even if we have to go back to the Supreme Court for the 5th time! Stay tuned and thank you for the continued support.

Learn more about this ongoing saga.

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The "neck" back in 2016, when the permits were issued Make a Contribution to the Captain Sams Spit Fund

The "upland", where development would occur

The "neck" in February 2018