South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Ex-senator liable in bridge lawsuit
March 6th, 2007

By Schuyler Kropf
The Post and Courier

A former state lawmaker who helped write the state's coastal management act has lost a civil suit that accused him of violating it.

Thomas Dewey Wise was found liable after he replaced a wooden bridge with a more permanent span made up in part with fill dirt.

The bridge connected part of his 400-acre property on South Fenwick Island in Colleton County.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control had allowed the structure to stay in place, even though it wasn't properly approved by way of a permit, according to the complaint.

The Coastal Conservation League filed suit, saying DHEC failed to follow state law when it approved the new bridge without it going through the public permitting process.

The ruling is significant because it forced DHEC to follow the state's own procedure, said Jimmy Chandler, an attorney with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project.

"We felt the agreement they reached - good, bad or indifferent - bypassed the permitting system," Chandler said.

Wise has 60 days to remove the structure, according to an order signed by Circuit Judge Roger Young.

Wise's attorney, David Haller of Mount Pleasant, denied Wise did anything improper and that an appeal is planned.

Wise formerly served in the state Senate representing Charleston and also served on the original Coastal Council from 1977-81. The Coastal Council handled coastal management before it was folded into DHEC in the 1990s as the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or skropf@postandcourier.com.