Nicholas School Internship Blogs

Building on a Disappearing Beach
by -- June 7th, 2016

For the past two weeks, I have begun to gain a better understanding of both the historical and environmental values of those living in the Lowcountry through my work with the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (part of the Stanback Internship program at the Nicholas School). The Coastal Conservation League is a non-profit organization that through working with local citizens, businesses, and elected officials promote the protection of the natural environment and quality of life along the coast of South Carolina. In my short time with the League, there have been numerous what they call “victories,” or successes in a particular project or bill they have been working on.

When coastal erosion catches up with maritime forests a "boneyard beach" is created. Huntington Island, SC.

When coastal erosion catches up with maritime forests a “boneyard beach” is created. Hunting Island, SC.

Learning about the controversy and politics behind these victories has been immensely exciting, and I encourage you to check out some of the articles in The Post and Courier (Charleston) outlining some of the heated disagreements behind the state legislative decisions. I would like to look a little more into one victory, known as the “Shoreline Bill,” and what its passing now means for the coast of SC.

First, what is a baseline? It is a line along the coast that sets the boundary for where development can take place. In essence, there shall be no development seaward of the baseline. This line is primarily set to protect both the dune and beach ecology along the coast, while providing a buffer to development so that no beautiful beach homes or hotels will fall into the ocean. However, with increasing areas of beach nourishment developers have been fighting to move this baseline seaward with the growing beach. But what they don’t seem to realize or are ignoring is the fact that this source of artificial sand is temporary and building along it will cause problems in the future.

New measures of trying to control erosion by allowing water to flow through but protect the shoreline.

Wave Dissipation Devices are new measures of trying to control erosion by allowing water to flow through but protect the shoreline. Harbor Island, SC.

So it is exciting to hear that now both the SC State Senate and House have chosen to pass the Shoreline Management Bill, in which there is a more permanent baseline (where the line can only be moved landward and never seaward). With this exciting development, I have now been tasked with writing a comment letter on a permit of a proposed house that would be built completely seaward of the baseline. With the new law and my background in beach geologic processes from the Nicholas School, I feel confident that there will be enough evidence to discourage people from building on a disappearing beach.

Erosion taking its toll on one of the beach front homes.

Erosion taking its toll on one of the beach front homes. Harbor Island, SC.

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