South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

No Public Sand For DeBordieu
November 16th, 2003

Mining North Inlet should be unthinkable

There is a heaping chunk of gall in the DeBordieu Colony's request that the state allow it to take publicly owned sand from North Inlet to renourish its beach. The colony's beach is private. Yet the colony's community association wants to mine 200,000 cubic yards of sand from the nearby inlet to shore up its beach for about five years.

Such a project could harm more than 59 acres of habitat for shrimp and gamefish, as well as loggerhead turtle nesting sites, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And the S.C. Environmental Law Project in Georgetown worries that sand removal could damage the beach on publicly owned North Island, while altering the water flow through the inlet. North Inlet, at the end of the Waccamaw Neck, is a Natural Estuarine Research Preserve because humans - thus far - have not much altered its natural state.

State coastal regulations, unfortunately, don't bar oceanfront developments with no public access from using publicly owned sand for beach renourishment. So environmentally minded Georgetown County residents should hope that the colony's proposal has generated enough public comment to trigger a public hearing before the S.C. Division of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. If the OCRM hears sufficient expert testimony about negative environmental effects of the proposal, rejection could ensue. (The public-comment deadline was Saturday).

None of this is to suggest that the colony should have to suffer continued beach erosion. But its community association should look to environmentally noninvasive private sources for the requisite renourishment sand.

Or, the association could create a public beach access point for the people of Georgetown County, who are largely excluded from Waccamaw Neck beaches. That would qualify the colony for public beach renourishment funding on a continuing basis.

True, residents would have to come up with matching money to cover sand replenishment costs, and that would cost more than mining the inlet for sand. But better that than doing renourishment on the cheap and damaging a fragile public resource in the process.