South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Opinion: Don’t sacrifice coast for developers
December 3rd, 2015

The devil really can be in the details. Example: The coastal zone critical areas bill.

It is supposed to be a way to protect the coast from harmful development. And it would help do just that — but far less effectively if Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek, gets his way.

The full Senate, when it considers the bill during the upcoming session, should reverse the decision of the Senate subcommittee that Mr. Campbell chairs and reinstate the provision that would establish a fixed line on state beaches beyond which building would not be allowed.

The line could be moved inland if the beach erodes, but it could not be moved toward the ocean if the beach accretes, because that accretion is apt to reverse some day. A house built on accreted land might end up in the drink.

Mr. Campbell told our reporter that he removed the provision because a few senators threatened to block the bill on the Senate floor if it remained.

“There were so many good things in that bill. . . . I’m trying to . . . get something done.”

Well, there’s got to be a better way.

That omission would be good news for Kiawah Development Partners, a Charlotte business that wants to put 50 houses on a fragile spit at the bottom of Kiawah Island. KDP has lobbied tirelessly for the change so that it can build a road to connect the spit to the main body of Kiawah Island.

But many coastal residents certainly don’t see it that way. Far from it. They value the state’s coast for its beauty and the birds and marine life it supports.

They also recognize that building too close to the ocean on eroding land could block public access to one of the state’s most precious assets.

Specifically at Captain Sam’s Spit, building could disrupt dolphins’ strand-feeding — the rare process by which they drive schools of fish onto an inlet beach and follow them onto the sand to feed.

It is wrong to cast this issue as environmentalists impeding business. It is, rather, environmentalists standing up for the natural landscape and wildlife — and for the public’s ability to enjoy them.

A diverse committee, of which other stakeholders outnumbered environmentalists, worked a long time to hammer out recommendations for protecting the state’s coast — the basis of the bill being considered. Their suggestions reflected a balanced, rational approach to the subject.

It would be a pity for a few senators to throw a monkey wrench in the works — to the detriment of the people they represent.

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