pc-040219-ne-floatingisland Folly floating island

A floating wooden platform in Folly Creek has drawn the attention of boaters. Richard Beck/Provided

A new island has appeared near Folly Beach, but it wasn't the result of geologic disturbance or a shifting sandbar.

Instead, the square, wooden float moored in Folly Creek is entirely a creation of man. 

Richard Beck, who runs a dolphin tour company, spotted the roughly 20 foot by 20 foot platform on Friday. The float was complete with lounge chairs, as if the deck of a nearby home had floated away and anchored itself near the Folly River. 

To him, the spot that many have dubbed a "floating island" was just one more example of man-made annoyances that are ruining the natural splendor of the area's creeks.

"People need to be able to experience the river. I understand that, and to some extent I profit from that," Beck said. "But it's the permanence of the structure that bothers me."

Images of the platform have since circulated on Facebook to both derision and fanfare. One commenter said he might "kayak out there with a few beers and a book." Others called it a safety hazard.  

Steve Turano, one of the people behind the creek's newest novelty, said he's confident that the structure isn't breaking any rules. He said it's the responsibility of boaters in the area to keep an eye out for obstacles and travel at a reasonable speed. 

"I think Folly has bigger issues on the river to deal with," Turano said. "We have not done anything wrong that would warrant the removal of the platform."

Turano, a captain with Huckfin Charters, gave few details on exactly how the platform would be used. 

Folly Beach Mayor Goodwin said city staff are trying to find out if the wooden island needs a permit of some type. 

"If this is legal, why don't we all just build us a floating house to watch the tides change and we’ll all go sit out in the river? We'll all have waterfront property," Goodwin said.

The platform isn't quite a boat (no motor or sail), and it isn't quite a dock (no pilings or connection to high ground), leaving the deck in a regulatory gray area. Turano said he did not pursue getting a permit for the structure and said he doesn't feel he needs one.

"It may be one of those spots that somebody has found a thin line to run," said Robert McCullough, a spokesman for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. 

McCullough said his organization also was examining the structure Monday, but if it's not hindering navigation, that means it's not the responsibility of DNR or the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard determined on Monday that the deck was out of the federal navigational channel, Lt. J.B. Zorn said.

The affected section of creek is within the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's purview, but it wasn't immediately clear what the agency would do. Spokeswoman Laura Renwick said agency staff and the city "are working together to determine a path forward."

State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, seemed confident that the structure would fall under some of DHEC's rules because other structures with underwater lines have had to apply for dock permits, including the marina at Patriot's Point. 

Removing marine trash such as abandoned boats has long been a hot potato between different authorities. DNR has the ability to declare boats abandoned, which takes 90 days, but after that it's the responsibility of local authorities to remove and dispose of them. Goodwin said Folly Beach had recently been awarded a grant to remove a few nearby abandoned boats.

But by all accounts the deck is not abandoned. Photos taken of the platform by Beck showed a small white powerboat tied to it. Turano said the platform will be in use soon. 

"We're going to have a fun summer on the Folly River," he said. "I think it's going to be used to have fun and bring people together."

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Reach Chloe Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.

Chloe Johnson covers the coastal environment and climate change for the Post and Courier. She's always looking for a good excuse to hop on a boat.

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