South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Sea wall can stay for now
March 10th, 2004

Daufuskie homeowners, state officials settle dispute


BEAUFORT -- Daufuskie Island homeowners and state officials Tuesday settled a legal challenge to the state's beachfront management law, stopping a trial before it got started.

The agreement allows two Bloody Point homeowners along Mungen Creek to keep in place a wall built to protect their homes from erosion. But oceanfront property owners would tear down the part of the wall in front of their property if the state allows them to pursue another way to protect their property.

The state had argued that allowing a sea wall would violate state law and could threaten public beaches, while the homeowners claimed in the lawsuit filed in 2002 that their property would be lost without a sea wall.

State officials had worried that losing this case would undermine the law and their ability to protect public beaches. Tuesday's settlement, they said, didn't strengthen their position, but it also didn't weaken it. The 1988 law aims to protect the state's beaches by preventing the construction of hard structures, such as sea walls and rock revetments, which can exacerbate erosion, and by establishing setback lines to push back development.

The oceanfront property owners have six months to apply to the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management for permission to install groins to protect their property. If the state approves the groins, the sea wall must be removed from that area within a year. If the state doesn't approve the applications, the lawsuit goes back to court.

Jimmy Chandler, an attorney representing the Coastal Conservation League,which supported the state's position, said he thought it unlikely they would be turned down.

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