It’s outrageous that the DHEC board wants to override its staff recommendation and reduce the fine to a self-admitted violator of the state’s ban on new seawalls on the public’s beach. Protecting the beach, which belongs to the taxpayers of South Carolina, is not a regulatory “taking,” as some suggest. To the contrary, the coastal waters and beaches are held in trust for the people of South Carolina.
It is ridiculous that regulators would even consider winking at the illegal construction of a temporary seawall at Wild Dunes that encroached on the public’s beaches. When commissioners act for a favored few, they are violating their constitutional oath to represent the interests of all the people of our state. The result is bad policy and bad economics. At the least, the two commissioners who voted to allow an appeal of the fine to go before the full board on Thursday obviously do not understand that seawalls increase the erosion on the adjacent property, thus depreciating that property.
The continuing rise in sea level is well-documented and is well-known by all scientists, engineers, planners and agency staffs charged with implementing policies of the coastal zone. Equally well-documented is that seawalls accelerate erosion and narrow the area of the public’s dry-sand beach at high tide.
The fact that the east end of the Isle of Palms is naturally very dynamic and mobile has been known since Colonial times. Yet the original developers of Wild Dunes moved toward the threat. Many grand houses have been built at the beach with full knowledge that they were at risk; the property owners were informed when they purchased their property that they were in a high-risk zone. The risk will only increase with time. This will remain true as long as the sun is in the sky.
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It would be a disgrace for the DHEC board to ignore those facts and ridicule those trying to protect the interests of the public. The DHEC staff has it right on this one.
Compounding the insult, those who want to take possession of the public’s resources are using a taxpayer-subsidized insurance program to insure their at-risk properties. If the DHEC commissioners were consistent, they would reject federal flood insurance and insist that beachfront property owners pay for insurance at risk-based market rates. That would be a benefit to the taxpayers of South Carolina.
John Mark Dean
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
USC Baruch Institute for Marine and