S.927 and H.4683 Beachfront Management Reform Act

February 5, 2018

In June 2016, the Governor signed Act No. 197 requiring DHEC to update the beachfront jurisdictional lines and to establish a baseline that should not be moved seaward from its position on December 31, 2017.

Under a significantly compressed timeline, DHEC released proposed beachfront lines last fall.  The rollout of the lines and the process by which they were determined was imperfect. All involved concur that coastal homeowners were rightly frustrated by the lack of public notice and transparency.  S.927 and H.4683 have been proposed to amend the process by which those and future lines will be determined. 

Blue Ribbon Committee Recommendations
The concept of establishing a baseline that should not move seaward was recommended by the Blue Ribbon Committee on Shoreline Management in 2013 and stated, “Subject to S.C. Code of Laws 48-39-290(D), the baseline established under the S.C. Beachfront Management Act should not move seaward from its position on June 14, 2011.”  The effective date of the recommendation agreed on by the Blue Ribbon Committee referred to a known baseline position.  This was changed by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina to a date in the future subject to the unknowns of possible impacts of hurricanes and storms on the beachfront.

In addition, the Blue Ribbon Committee’s Number One recommendation was, “Replace language regarding the policy of retreat with the following: The policy of the state of South Carolina is the preservation of its coastal beachfront and beach/dune system.”

South Carolina’s coast has recently been impacted by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and Hurricane Irma in 2017--extraordinary storms that caused substantial beach and dune erosion, and also consumed a large amount of DHEC and community staff time.  Due to these three consecutive storm events, measurements taken in or after 2015 may not be representative of typical beach conditions.  Highly erosional conditions still exist in many communities. 

In the light of rising sea levels and chronic erosion, beachfront communities are investing in beach preservation more than ever before.  This investment includes beach nourishment, dune restoration, and the collection of a significant amount of data.

Our Board of Directors is made up of the Mayors and Administrators of South Carolina beach communities. Many properties in these communities were adversely affected by the 2017 proposed jurisdictional beachfront line revisions under the existing Legislative mandates. S.927 and H.4683 correct these issues by creating a new and more transparent process, amending the appeals procedure, refining the definition of a primary dune, and addressing the use of post-storm survey data.

The South Carolina Beach Advocates support S.927 and H.4683 with the following additions:

1. The baseline be fixed from future seaward movement at the current line positions as recommended by the Blue Ribbon Committee. 
2. The delay in setting jurisdictional lines after a named storm of 1 year in S-927 and 2 years in H-4683 should be resolved while retaining a time period that recognizes that survey data used in setting the lines should represent typical beach conditions rather than severely eroded post-storm conditions.
3. The pending amendment to S.927 in which the word “retreat” be replaced with “preservation” throughout the Beachfront Management Act as secondary to the main purpose of addressing the jurisdictional lines.

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