COLUMBIA, SC Columbia Republican Sen. John Courson and local Reps. James Smith and Kirkman Finlay are among seven state lawmakers honored by the S.C. Coastal Conservation League for backing legislation that environmentalists say will protect beaches.
The Coastal Conservation League, one of the state's largest conservation groups, was holding an awards ceremony Wednesday night at the Columbia Museum of Art to recognize legislators and advocates for conservation.
Lawmakers received recognition from the league for supporting a bill that’s intended to stop new hotels, condominiums and houses from being built too far out onto the beach. The bill freezes new development beyond a certain point on South Carolina beaches. The bill is supposed to stop builders from developing closer to the ocean after taxpayer funded renourishment projects temporarily widen the seashore.
The Legislature approved the bill in 2016 after years of argument and criticism from developers at Kiawah Island.
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Courson, R-Richland, is one of the Senate’s leading environmental advocates. He said he favored the bill because it will protect both the environment and the economy by preserving beaches.
“Tourism is our leading industry in South Carolina,’’ Courson said Wednesday. “If we somehow through policy mistakes mess up the coastal areas, it will have a tremendous financial impact on the state.’’
Smith, D-Richland, and Finlay, R-Richland, have drawn praise from environmentalists for backing conservation friendly bills.
Others being honored include Sens. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, and Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort. Herbkersman was being named legislator of the year.