This case involves a dock permit that is unusual and especially egregious due to its location. In particular, DHEC issued a permit to construct a dock from Pappa's Island, also known as Pappy's Island, which is a previously undeveloped 104-acre marsh island that is surrounded by the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. The landowners also obtained a septic permit for the Island, indicating an intent to introduce unprecedented development into one of the most important undeveloped swaths of land in the State.
Aside from a small cutout at McClellanville, the seaward side of the Intracoastal Waterway (“ICW”) serves as the Refuge’s border for the entire 22-mile stretch. Pappy's Island falls within this small excluded area. In short, Pappy's Island appears to be the only potentially-developable high ground seaward of the ICW for at least 22 miles. Pappy's Island is surrounded by the Refuge, and the proposed dock would be the only man-made structure on the seaward side of the ICW for the entire length of the Refuge.
Our challenge to this permit in the Administrative Law Court (“ALC”) focuses on the direct and cumulative impacts of development in this unique natural area. Both the Critical Area Regulations and the Coastal Management Program (DHEC has given the dock approvals under both) give special weight to unique, high-value natural areas.
The dock, along with the development that will be facilitated thereby, will most certainly impact the unique area of the Refuge and disrupt its natural character. In short, if there is any dock permit that DHEC will deny, it should be this one.
We are pleased to report that we have worked collaboratively and successfully with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Coastal Conservation League and the Open Space Institute Land Trust (“OSI”) to ultimately transfer Papa's Island into the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge, where it will remain protected. Accordingly, we dismissed our challenge to the dock permit in the ALC.
We could not have asked for a better result.
The Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge covers 66,287 acres of contiguous lands and waters between Georgetown and Charleston, encompassing water impoundments, creeks, bays, and barrier islands. In total, the Refuge covers 22 miles of undeveloped shoreline, part of the largest stretch of undeveloped shoreline on the entire east coast.