In 2008, a piece of legislation was introduced to Congress that would have removed federal protections from this spit of land. Thanks to the immediate response of hundreds of Conservation League members and activists, the bill was withdrawn and the Spit remains in the Coastal Barrier Resources System. This federal law identifies naturally sensitive or erosional coastal areas and discourages their development by prohibiting federal subsidies in the form of federal flood insurance and hurricane relief.
Throughout the ongoing turmoil in court, in 2015, KP began a legislative effort to support their plans for development on the Spit. Working with state Senator Paul Campbell (R-Berkeley) to introduce the “Kiawah Amendment,” KP pushed to undermine coastal protections in an otherwise good bill aimed at protecting the shoreline. Without KP’s amendment, the bill would set a baseline along our entire coast that would never again move seaward — defending taxpayers, homeowners and natural resources from development too close to the ocean. While the line would never again move towards the ocean, it could still move landward in highly erosional areas. With the Kiawah Amendment, the bill would delay setting the baseline until as late as the year 2021 — a stalling tactic designed to buy time while sand potentially accretes on the Spit. With more sand, the developers could potentially have room to build the road they need.
After a stalemate, the Senate ultimately voted to pass the bill and set the final baseline in December of 2017. Despite immense pressure from the developers, the House passed the same version of the bill. Governor Haley signed the bill into law in June 2016.
This law adds a critical safeguard to our state’s beach protection policy. It reduces the chance of development in vulnerable areas — development that puts taxpayers on the hook — while preserving the dry sand beach for all South Carolinians to enjoy. While we would have preferred that the line be set immediately (per the state’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Shoreline Management recommendation), this bill was a major win. This year’s revision of the jurisdictional lines (both the baseline and setback line) has begun and will be adopted this December. You can read more about this in our recent blog post.