Monday, November 16, 2015 Blog

Holding back the ocean, protecting the ocean, cities without cars, road improvements without tax increases, Native Americans honor a South Carolinian’s work.

by Andy Hollis


Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the beach… Bo Petersen with the Post and Courier reports that an administrative law judge has lifted the “stay” on construction of the latest version of a sea wall on Captain Sams spit.

As a recap, the Conservation League, represented by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, prevailed before the S.C. Supreme Court in our opposition to a gigantic, 3/4 mile long bulkhead along the Kiawah River. The Kiawah developers, (backed, puzzlingly, by a hedge fund in New York that manages some of the New York State retirement fund), have sought approval for the wall in order to give prospective lot buyers the impression that the Spit is a safe place to build houses, in spite of its infamous instability.

After losing the appeal, the developers submitted another request, but this one for a wall that was inland from the marsh.  This modification (a distinction without a difference, in the words of SCELP’s Amy Armstrong), they argued, would not require the level of permitting scrutiny to which the marsh edge version was subject.  We appealed the state’s approval.  Ordinarily, an appeal triggers a “stay,” preventing construction until the case is decided.  This makes sense, because the likelihood of a judge ruling that a wall should be removed after hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to build it is, one would think, reduced.

The purpose of going into this level of detail is that developers and road boosters, mostly from the Myrtle Beach area, are promoting a bill that would eliminate the stay altogether, for all projects statewide.  Although may sound like an arcane subject, it has important and harmful implications for the environment, as is the case with Captain Sams. You’ll hear more during the legislative session beginning in January.

Speaking of the legislative session and road boosters, The State has produced an entertaining and very brief video by Matt Walsh featuring two sides of the road funding debate. (There are actually more than two sides.)

Matt also directed the excellent video that accompanied the article on the diversion of state transportation dollars by Senate President Hugh Leatherman to four-lane S.C. 51, a lightly travelled road in Florence County.

And more on the subject of transportation…Ed Buckley, writing in the Post and Courier, makes a compelling argument for expanding bicycling along the coast, especially in urban areas, not only for the environmental benefits, but also because of the financial advantages compared to cars.

As cities shift from cars to other modes, we’ll need less gasoline.  This makes the argument against offshore oil exploration and drilling even more salient.  The good news, from the Post and Courier, is that Congressman Tom Rice, from Myrtle Beach, has spoken out against offshore drilling (but not yet against exploration), joining 1st District Congressman Mark Sanford in opposing this damaging and incompatible endeavor.

To date, every coastal town and city (23 in all) has formally opposed offshore oil.  This leaves Governor Haley in the position of supporting an Obama Administration policy that has been unanimously rejected by the communities and representatives most affected by it.

Oklahoma is a long way from the Lowcountry, but I encourage you to read this article from the Tulsa World about the creation of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. The preserve was established by The Nature Conservancy, with leadership from South Carolina’s Joe Williams, a former national chairman of the Conservancy board. The ceremony, during which the chief of the Osage tribe honored Joe with a buffalo robe, was a beautiful acknowledgement of the cultural and historical significance of the prairie ecosystem, one of the most biologically diverse, and most endangered, in the temperate zone.

On a final note, if you live somewhere like Charleston or Mt. Pleasant with a runoff election on Tuesday, don’t forget to vote. It’s the single thing most important action you can take this week for the environment.


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