South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Captain Sam's Ruling a Win!
December 2nd, 2011

Capt. Sam's ruling is a win Monday, November 28, 2011

Even diehard Cowboys fans can celebrate the dolphins' recent big win. The S.C. Supreme Court ruled last week that one of the marine mammals' favorite feeding spots may not be altered by a half-mile concrete sea wall.

That likely means a 50-home development on Captain Sam's Spit at the southern tip of Kiawah Island is off the drawing boards. The wall was to protect a road to provide on-land access to the homesites.

The Kiawah Development Partners, however, said it will not give up.

The spit is on a sandy stretch of the barrier island that is prone to erosion and accretion. Shorebirds love to feed there. Dolphins can be seen driving baitfish onto the beach and jumping after them to feed. And it is a popular spot for boaters and beach walkers.

The developers would like to use the 150-acre spit for building homes. They contend that the concrete wall would do no harm.

The S.C. Environmental Law Project (SCELP) doesn't see it that way. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Board agreed. An administrative law judge overruled DHEC. And the state Supreme Court reversed the judge's ruling.

The SCELP hopes this ruling will be the death knell for development plans.

But Kiawah Island Development Partners is known as a tenacious enterprise, and it would be premature for nature lovers to let their guards down. The partnership also has applied for permission to build a community dock along the inlet and a smaller wall in the sand.

It hasn't been so long ago that Kiawah Island was all but undeveloped. It had one large plantation house and a handful of small summer homes.

It is now an upscale resort development with world-class golf and dining and with thousands of homes, many grand in scale. A Charleston County park on the beach gives local people access to the ocean during certain times of the year.

But it would be a mistake to suggest that its financial success warrants jeopardizing Captain Sam's Spit and its unique natural assets. Or setting a bad precedent for similar locations in the state.

If our coastal resources are compromised, everyone loses -- dolphins, birds and people alike.

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