Report Urges Tougher Building Rules for South Carolina Coast

November 12, 2009

South Carolina needs to take a tougher stand to keep new beachfront development from moving closer to the ocean, according to a report requested by the state’s environmental agency.

The report calls for lawmakers to tighten a 1988 law that was intended to slow construction near the beach by saying new houses and hotels should be built farther back, according to a copy obtained by The State of Columbia.

The law passed at a time when some oceanfront structures on South Carolina beaches were being hit by waves. But the state also attacked the erosion problem by renourishing beaches with sand from offshore, and once the beaches were made wider, the Department of Health and Environmental Control allowed construction closer to the water.

The imaginary line where building is banned should never be moved closer to the ocean, especially with predictions that global warming will cause sea levels to rise, according to the report.

The report was prepared by 23 scientists, college professors, business professionals and government officials at the request of DHEC. It will now be sent to the Legislature.

Other suggestions in the report include putting aside money to buy pristine oceanfront land and prevent it from being developed, encouraging local governments to pass their own beach building rules and figuring out how much sand South Carolina beaches need to be renourished and where that sand might be found offshore.

“We are reflecting on the past 20 years and looking at how we will be for the next 20 years and beyond,” said Braxton Davis, a DHEC coastal division staff member who worked with the committee. “The committee has recommended a number of steps the state should consider that may put us in a better position to reduce risks from storms, sea-level rise and chronic erosion.”

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