The owners of a floating platform in a tidal creek near the Folly River are arguing the state can't tell them to remove the structure. 

The roughly 400-square-foot wooden deck, with furniture affixed, appeared in the stream near Folly Beach earlier this spring. Some saw it as a nice place to stop off and drink a beer; others saw it as clutter in the natural landscape. 

In April, regulators with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control told the owners that the island, which was never permitted, is in violation of state regulations. DHEC urged the owners, who are associated with Huckfin Charters, to remove it within 30 days. 

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The "floating island" near the Folly River, seen in May 2019. Steve Turano/Holy City Helicopters/Provided

Instead, the company sent a letter back. 

Chris Jacob, an attorney for the owners, asserts in a May response that DHEC monitors "construction of docks/boat ramps, digging pylons/piers, bulkheads, fillings, dredging, etc., none of which are attributable to the platform under any circumstance or regard."

Meanwhile, a totally separate, two-level floating platform in the Ashley River near Brittlebank Park has also come under scrutiny by state regulators. 

Jacob's argument reflects some of the confusion that erupted when the Folly platform first appeared — it wasn't quite a boat, and wasn't quite a permanent structure, either. Some asserted it should be treated like the floating marina at Patriots Point, which is similarly anchored to the riverbed.

It received a permit before it was installed. 

"We don't want DHEC to overstep its boundaries and assert jurisdiction or a need for a permit where, simply, the law does not dictate one," Jacob told The Post and Courier.  

DHEC regulates disruptions in the coastal environment through its Ocean and Coastal Resource Management office, which regularly permits building projects on or near sensitive ecological environments like marshes and salty waterways.

"Neither the structure in Folly Creek nor a similar structure owned by HydroFly are currently permitted by DHEC," said Laura Renwick, a spokeswoman for the agency. "The department is currently working through the compliance and enforcement process related to these unauthorized structures."

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The floating structure in the Ashley River near Brittlebank Park seen in this photo taken Sunday, June 10, 2019, is associated with HydroFly, a watersports company. Matthew Fortner/Staff

HydroFly, a watersports company, is associated with the structure floating in the Ashley River. An owner of HydroFly could not be reached by phone on Monday. 

Meanwhile, the wooden island near Folly has been a hit among customers and boaters in the waterway, said Steve Turano, a captain with Huckfin. 

"It kind of blows my mind that anyone would be concerned about this when we’ve taken full responsibility for it," he said. 

In reality, the state is unlikely to give up, said Michael Corley, an attorney with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project. The novelty of the floating platforms may mean that the matter takes a long time to come to a conclusion. 

Corley was skeptical of the response letter, however, saying that state regulations were "contorted beyond recognition."

"I certainly appreciate inventive legal argument, but these are detached from the basic framework understood by practitioners in the field," he said. 

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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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