South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Groups challenging permit for groin project at DeBordieu beach
February 27th, 2019

By David Purtell, South Strand News

Two organizations are challenging a permit allowing for the construction of groins on the beach at DeBordieu Colony.

The Coastal Conservation League as well as the foundation that owns Hobcaw Barony have requested a review of the permit issued by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Both organizations say they're concerned the groins will exacerbate coastal erosion along the beach buffering the North Inlet, just to the south of DeBordieu.

The beach at the southern end of the Waccamaw Neck is adjacent to the private community at DeBordieu. Residents there are funding the groin project, which includes installing three groins, each 300 to 400 feet in length, as well as beach renourishment.

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project, on behalf of the Coastal Conservation League, has requested what's known as a "final review" of the permit. The Belle W. Baruch Foundation has made a separate request. If the request is accepted, the DHEC board of directors would hold a hearing on the matter before issuing a final decision.

Erin Pate, with CCL, said the shoreline at the North Inlet is "nature's way of protecting the mainland." Groins are designed to trap sand updrift, she said, but the result is less sand moving immediately downdrift. A map of the project shows the southernmost groin very near to the property line separating DeBordieu and Hobcaw.

The permit allows up to 650,000 cubic yards of sand to be placed on the beach with the groins accounting for 150,000 to 200,000 cubic yards of that amount, according to a press release from the DeBordieu Colony Community Association, which also said its own studies show the groins would result in less sand moving downdrift toward Hobcaw, a 16,000-acre research reserve.

"Thus, the beach area at DeBordieu will continue to provide sentiment to (the Hobcaw beach) that already has a historical high erosion rate -- just not as much," the press release said, adding that, initially, the excess nourishment sand placed on the beach will reduce the natural rate of erosion at Hobcaw.

The release says the project is part of DeBordieu's long-term strategy to preserve the beach. "Some critics of the project have recommended elimination of the groins but continuation of simply placing sand on the beach. This has been DeBordieu's approach for 25 years but it is not sustainable because of the way sand is drawn of by the rapidly eroding property to the south of us."

Both sides said sea level rise also presents a challenge to beach preservation.

George Chastain, executive director of Hobcaw Barony, said the reserve is managed for long-term use and that the foundation is concerned the "groins could increase the rate of erosion on our property."

The request for review from the Coastal Conversation League was sent on Feb. 7. Once DHEC receives a request for review, a public hearing must be held within 60 days, according to state law.

Asked if her group will take legal action if the permit is upheld, Pate said, "We have to use all the tools in the tool box."

For Hobcaw's part, Chastain said a decision on legal action hasn't been made.

"It's an ongoing process," he said.

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