South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

SCELP Board Members Frances Close & Paula Feldman spoke, among others, at a press conference in opposition to the bill destroying SC's beachfront management protections
Posted: May 23, 2014


COLUMBIA, SC — Frances Close remembers walking the seashore from one end of Debordieu Beach to the other, enjoying the scenery of coastal Georgetown County.

Today, decades after Close made those routine walks, it’s hard to take such a stroll. A 4,000-foot-long seawall has made the beach erode so badly that the shore is covered by the Atlantic Ocean, she says. A walk down the beach toward North Inlet now means struggling through current-driven seawater in front of the bulkhead.

“You could see, over time, the beach getting eroded out and the sand get knocked away,” said Close, a prominent conservationist whose family once owned a house on Debordieu. “At high tide, it was so turbulent there, with all of the washing, you couldn’t go by at all. You couldn’t walk down the beach to North Inlet anymore. It was because of that seawall.”

Close, a 65-year-old Columbia resident, made those remarks at a news conference Wednesday in which she and other environmentalists denounced a bill to let a handful of property owners rebuild the aging Debordieu seawall. Some Debordieu residents built the wall 33 years ago to protect fewer than 25 houses as the beach eroded and waves chewed into the land.

Not only will a new seawall at Debordieu continue to worsen beach erosion south of Pawleys Island, but it could weaken a state law that banned seawalls about a quarter century ago, environmentalists said. The ban, adopted as part of the 1988 beach management act, was enacted because seawalls are known to make beach erosion worse when slammed by waves. Close served on a 1987 commission that recommended tighter development controls later included in the 1988 law.

During the State House news conference, representatives of major environmental groups said they’ll fight the bill to allow the Debordieu seawall and ease other oceanfront development rules.

The bill originally sought to prevent the seaward movement of development while maintaining existing prohibitions on seawalls, but it has been amended so much that conservationists say it could hurt beaches from the Grand Strand to Hilton Head Island.

A House committee last week voted to delay tougher building restrictions at the request of Kiawah Island developers, at the same time it approved reconstruction of the failing seawall at Debordieu. A version of the bill has already passed the Senate.

See the full article by Sammy Fretwell, dated May 14, 2014, at: