Friday, November 3, 2017 Blog · News

Final Countdown: Comment Now on DHEC’s Revised Lines

by Emily Cedzo

What is the latest on those wonky DHEC setback lines? (To comply with the Beachfront Management Act, DHEC is updating the baseline and setback lines for coastal development. You can read all about it in my last blog entry here. Remember: The last day to comment is November 6!)

Here’s the latest: Last week, Governor McMaster called on DHEC to delay setting the lines by extending the public comment period – to allow legislators more time to revisit their approach to coastal management.

It’s an interesting argument for him to make, given the fact that setting a baseline and setback line have been South Carolina law for more than 30 years. In 1988, the Beachfront Management Act established that future coastal management should reflect the science of shifting shorelines. In 2013, a diverse committee of elected officials, realtors, scientists and conservationists recommended setting a baseline that would never again move seaward. Last year, legislators overwhelmingly agreed and, with bipartisan enthusiasm, passed another law that set a deadline for DHEC to update the line and make the baseline permanent by December 2017.

In other words, legislators and expert stakeholders have been studying, discussing and passing laws about how to manage the coast since 1988. And last year, legislators agreed on the current process and passed the landmark Shoreline Management Bill. It is highly unlikely they need more time.

Perhaps Governor McMaster’s concern is less about legislative engagement and more about his reelection campaign and potential blowback from coastal constituents.

Coastal homeowners are understandably worried about this process, but they should know that they can individually ask DHEC to consider exemptions and approve special permits, even if their structure is located beyond the baseline or setback line. The odds are in their favor. Since 1990, DHEC has approved 71 of 72 special permit requests.

The truth is that setting a baseline is a crucial step for DHEC to protect present and future homeowners and taxpayers from flooding and a rising sea.

For more than 30 years, as coastal property values have continually increased, the baseline and setback line have effectively reduced bad investments in risky places and protected taxpayers. The lines make it difficult to develop in hazardous places, ultimately saving taxpayers from funding costly disaster bailouts.

There are good reasons for finalizing DHEC’s proposed lines. To read more about the lengthy process that brought us here and the sound science that supports the process, you can read more on our position on our website.

And don’t take it from just us …

“A primary goal of state oceanfront policy is to keep new development from creeping closer and closer to the ocean, where it is in harm’s way,” Beaufort’s Island Packet Editorial Board said.

“Delaying the legislatively imposed implementation date – if it could be done – would permit construction to continue even when good science determines it is too risky for property owners and the public alike,” the Post and Courier’s Editorial Board penned over the weekend. “It’s time to move forward.”

The Conservation League is here to help you look at the lines and voice your opinion. And remember, the deadline to comment is November 6! If you have questions or want to talk more, please reach out to me at Thanks for your engagement!

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