South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

S.C. Supreme Court to rehear Capt. Sam’s Spit case
May 3rd, 2013

The S.C. Environmental Law Project petition argued for the S.C. Supreme Court rehearing on these terms:

The difference between the two earlier decisions and the differences of opinion among justices will create confusion for subsequent cases.

The ruling allowing the embankment erodes the authority of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The ruling upsets provisions in the law that favor public benefit.

KIAWAH ISLAND — The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear — again — the Capt. Sam’s Spit case over an access-road embankment to allow development.

It’s a rare move for the court, which already has heard and reheard the case — and issued conflicting decisions. It’s an unexpected turn in the battle over the future of the prized, wildlife-rich environs.

Amy Armstrong of the S.C. Environmental Law Project, who filed the petition for rehearing on behalf of the Coastal Conservation League, said she was informed by the court late Thursday that it would be reheard and oral arguments scheduled for June 5.

“This case has taken an unusual path the whole way,” Armstrong said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m glad they are taking another look at this. I think there are important issues to warrant it being reheard.”

Kiawah Development Partners confirmed the company also had been informed.

“We’ll be prepared to present our argument June 5 and answer any questions they might have, just like we’ve done previously,” said Mike Touhill of KDP.

Capt. Sam’s is a 150-acre teardrop of exposed land on Kiawah’s western edge. KDP plans a 50-home development in its dunes. Shorebirds flock to feed on its tidal flats. The embankment would be built along a stretch of riverbank where dolphins regularly strand feed — driving schools of bait fish onto the beach and jumping after them to eat. The behavior is found almost nowhere else but the Southeast coast.

Environmentalists and community groups have fought for two years to stop the project and the embankment. The developers say both can be built without significantly disrupting the environs.

In the last decision in February, the court allowed KDP to build a revetment, a sloping porous wall or embankment, to support the road to the proposed development.

The embankment would run along an eroding bank of Kiawah River on the spit’s narrow neck. The court had denied the embankment in an original decision.

Article by Bo Peterson

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