SC Supreme Court hears final arguments on Captain Sam’s Spit, Kiawah Island

View of Captain Sam's Spit shows the 66 ft wide neck that links the Spit to the mainland. Kiawah Development Partners plan to build a road here to connect to their proposed housing development. (image by Mary Edna Fraser)

Yesterday, Tuesday, January 18, 2011, the South Carolina Supreme Court heard the final pleas over the construction of a half-mile long bulkhead along the Kiawah River intended to stabilize the dynamic Captain Sam’s Spit on Kiawah Island. Lawyers Amy Armstrong of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) and Davis Whitfield-Cargile of the state’s Ocean and Coastal Resource Management agency (OCRM) opposed the building of a 40 foot wide concrete “hard erosion control device” that would cover the sandy shoreline currently used by a host of recreators. Kiawah Development Partners (KDP) hired lawyer Trenholm Walker to defend their interest in constructing an articulated concrete block wall that would improve the marketability of the homes to be situated on the highly erosional Spit.

Previously, DHEC had reduced the permit for construction of their proposed 2,783 ft revetment structure to 270 ft, but this was overturned by Judge Ralph King Anderson III on January 25, 2010. The permit was allowed, in part, because the judge found that the economic value of the construction of 50 homes outweighed the value of its use if it were to remain in its pristine condition.

Amy Amstrong’s final statement in yesterday’s hearing made clear that the tidelands have great value in their use by the public. She said, “If a gargantuan structure like the one proposed by KDP, one that would cover 2.63 acres of public trust tidelands in concrete blocks, that would eliminate public access to the riverbanks of the Kiawah and that would be 3 times larger than any structure ever permitted by the state does not offend the Public Trust Doctrine, it is hard to imagine that any structure would ever violate the Public Trust Doctrine.”

We thank everyone whose hard work on this case including Amy Armstrong, Davis Whitfield-Cargile, Jordan McDonald, and Jimmy Chandler (SCELP’s founder). Nancy Vinson of The Coastal Conservation League, Barbara Neale and Bill Eiser of South Carolina DHEC, and Sidi Limehouse and Peter Mugglestone of Friends of the Kiawah River were instrumental in the research of this issue. Thank you to all who have worked hard since the summer of 2008 to protect this valuable wildlife habitat and to stop unwise coastal development in South Carolina.

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