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The DHEC Board and Enforcing the Law

Folks, you may remember reading about DHEC proposing a fine of $750,000 for an illegal seawall that the Wild Dunes Ocean Club Villas association built. One reason the fine was so high was that the homeowners association hid the seawall under piles of sandbags–a willful attempt to cover up what they knew to be an unlawful seawall.

We appreciate when DHEC is tough on those who violate the laws that protect the environment, but yesterday a DHEC Board subcommittee voted to hold a hearing to consider reversing staff’s recommended fine.  See The State for the story.

Comments from two Board members reveal a misunderstanding of DHEC’s role in enforcing our laws, and that’s disturbing. Our elected officials in the General Assembly write the laws, and executive agencies like DHEC enforce them. In this case, the General Assembly passed the Beachfront Management Act, finding, among other things, that: “The use of armoring in the form of hard erosion control devices such as seawalls, bulkheads, and rip-rap to protect erosion-threatened structures adjacent to the beach has not proven effective. These armoring devices have given a false sense of security to beachfront property owners. In reality, these hard structures, in many instances, have increased the vulnerability of beachfront property to damage from wind and waves while contributing to the deterioration and loss of the dry sand beach which is so important to the tourism industry.” (SC Code 48-39-250(5))

When the full DHEC Board hears this appeal next month, Conservation Voters will be watching.  We urge the Board to uphold the laws that our elected officials passed, and support the appropriate penalty that DHEC’s staff recommended.

-Ann Timberlake

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