Thursday, February 7, 2019 News · Press Releases

Groups aim to protect pristine estuary and health of beach, appeal state agency decision authorizing multiple groins on Debidue in Georgetown County

by Diane Knich

Press Release


February 7, 2019


Amy E. Armstrong, Esquire
SC Environmental Law Project
[email protected] or (843) 527-0078

Caitie Forde-Smith
Coastal Conservation League
[email protected] or (252) 714-4790

Groups aim to protect pristine estuary and health of beach, appeal state agency decision authorizing multiple groins on Debidue in Georgetown County

GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC – Today, the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, on behalf of the Coastal Conservation League, filed a Request for Review with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Board of Directors challenging the agency’s recent approval of three new groins on Debidue Island in coastal Georgetown County.

In its application to DHEC, the DeBordieu Colony Community Association noted that the proposed groins would result in downdrift erosion, which could degrade beaches that buffer the North Inlet. Still, DHEC staff issued a permit on January 24 authorizing the construction of three 300-400-foot-long groins on Debidue Beach and additional beach renourishment.

The proposed southernmost groin threatens the pristine North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a nationally significant and ecologically sensitive public trust asset, which has served as a long-term site for scientific research. The research reserve is hosted by the University of South Carolina’s Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences.

The agency’s decision violates applicable statutory and regulatory law that serves to protect valuable public trust assets like the research reserve.

“The groins permitted for Debidue Beach will exacerbate erosion and place an ecologically significant public resource directly in harm’s way,” SCELP Executive Director Amy Armstrong said. “Decades of data and scientific research have proven that groins deprive adjacent downdrift property of their sand supply. Here, that adjacent downdrift property is the Baruch Foundation property, which is home to the North Inlet-Winyah Bay national research reserve.”

“We oppose efforts to harden South Carolina’s dynamic shoreline,” Conservation League Executive Director Laura Cantral said. “The groins at Debidue would jeopardize the health of a public beach and one of the last remaining pristine estuaries in the country for the benefit of one development. We urge the DHEC Board to reverse this decision and stay the course on expert recommendations that discourage new groins on our coast,” Cantral said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that groins are “probably the most misused and improperly designed of all coastal structures.” Groins work by capturing sand as it moves down the beach through longshore transport; however, by capturing sand and holding it in place, groins act to deprive the adjacent and downdrift beaches of sand.

The detrimental impacts of groins on adjacent and downdrift beach properties are well documented in scientific and regulatory literature. In 2013, after studying the effects of groins and shoreline armoring on the state’s beachfront, a DHEC Blue Ribbon Committee comprised of scientists, developers and elected officials recommended that no new groins be permitted. South Carolina law recognizes that groins interfere with natural sand transport and require special documentation that a project will not result in negative downdrift impacts before the issuance of any permit.

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The South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) is a nonprofit public interest law firm, dedicated to the protection of the South Carolina’s environment. Its mission is to protect the natural environment of South Carolina by providing legal services and advice to environmental organizations and concerned citizens and by improving the state’s system of environmental regulation.

The Coastal Conservation League is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the coastal resources of South Carolina. Its mission is to protect the state’s natural landscapes, abundant wildlife, clean water and quality of life. Since 1989, the Conservation League has carried out this mission by working with citizens, local government and the state legislature. Get involved at

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