One homeowner with a Folly Beach house threatened by erosion, while a sad situation, is no reason for a state law that could undermine beachfront conservation efforts statewide.
Nevertheless, such a bill is making progress in the Senate. It should be scuttled.
Ed Yarborough, a Spartanburg businessman, wants permission to keep a wooden sea wall that he built illegally in front of his Folly Beach house, which is threatened by erosion.
His friend Sen. Glenn Reese, D-Spartanburg, filed a bill to help him.
Unfortunately, in helping him, it could do a lot more harm by weakening the state’s ban on hard erosion control structures, such as piles of riprap and revetments.
If South Carolina is going to protect its extraordinary natural resources, legislators and regulators have to stick to established procedures.
Coastal management rules recognize that it’s impossible to outsmart Mother Nature. Try it, and Mother Nature will find another way to proceed, possibly with even more serious consequences.
A revetment in front of one property could cause erosion of property down the beach. That’s why it is inconsistent for Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin to say his city has little choice but to support the bill. Supporting Mr. Yarborough’s sea wall would likely mean trouble for other beachfront property owners. Make a special exception to a sea wall to protect a single cottage, and pretty soon everyone will want one — particularly if the original structure speeds up erosion elsewhere.
There is no question that Folly Beach is in a unique position. Erosion there is exacerbated by the jetties, which were built by the federal government to ensure access to Charleston Harbor. Because of that, the island is exempt from the Beachfront Management Act. But it is not exempt from a law banning hard erosion control structures, and for good reason.
Certainly Mr. Yarborough has the right to ask for an exemption to the ban. It should be up to the regulatory agency to make the call, based on existing guidelines.
DHEC’s coastal regulators have the authority to approve emergency action to preserve property — primarily using small sandbags.
It would be a huge mistake to rewrite the law to help an individual property owner whose house was built on the ever-risky front beach.
Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek, a member of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, which will consider the bill Thursday, said it is being reworked to apply specifically to Folly.
Even so, it could set a precedent for other beaches where emergency conditions might arise.
This homeowner’s problems, while lamentable, are not a good reason for what amounts to special legislation.
You might say it’s extra-special legislation, prepared by a hometown lawmaker to benefit a constituent and friend. It’s a bad way to make laws. The Ag Committee shouldn’t try to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear.
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