January 24, 2018
OCRM Jurisdictional Lines Update – Public Comment Period Extended
Beachfront development in South Carolina is regulated primarily by the South Carolina DHEC Office of Coastal Resource Management (OCRM). Every 7-10 years, OCRM is required by state law to review and revise the state’s beachfront jurisdictional lines (the Baseline and the Setback line). The purpose of the jurisdictional lines is to implement laws and regulations that support the state’s beachfront management goals and to guide development away from vulnerable beachfront shorelines. A 2016 amendment of the Beachfront Management Act prohibits the baseline from moving seaward from its position on December 31, 2017. These jurisdictional lines were last redrawn in 2009.
The latest OCRM review process began in October 2017 and was originally planned for completion by December 31, 2017. Based on public comments and concerns, the adoption schedule was changed to extend the public comment period until April 6, 2018. It is estimated that Kiawah’s jurisdictional lines will be adopted by August 24, 2018. The current jurisdictional lines remain in effect until the new lines are adopted.
The OCRM jurisdictional line website provides a great overview of the entire jurisdictional line process as well as detailed definitions of both the Baseline and Setback lines. This overview can be found here.
What are the lines?
In general, the two lines can be defined as:
Baseline – The crest (top) of the primary oceanfront sand dune.
Setback line – A line drawn parallel to the baseline set at a distance equal to 40 times the annual long-term erosion rate. If the beach is stable or accreting, the Setback line is set 20 feet landward of the baseline.
Developed and undeveloped property that lies seaward of either of these lines is subject to regulations and restrictions regarding new construction and reconstruction of existing structures, including pools and decks, on the portion of the property that extends seaward of either line.
Kiawah’s Beach Consultants Weighs In
The Town’s beach consultant, Coastal Science & Engineering (CSE), has completed a detailed review of the proposed jurisdictional line changes as well as the methodology and data utilized by OCRM. This technical report, available by contacting the Town, was submitted to OCRM by the Town on November 14, 2017. The report provides specific recommendations to OCRM that are summarized below.
1. Calculation of erosion rates – OCRM utilized shoreline position data from 14 different years between 1854-2015 to determine the long-term erosion rate for Kiawah. CSE questions the accuracy of the data from the 1800s and recommends using lines only from the last 40-50 years in order to account for current coastal processes, development pressures, and sea level trends.
Utilizing recent data would decrease the long-term erosion rate for most of the island and result in the setback line moving seaward.
2. Primary dune location – OCRM used LIDAR elevation data, vegetation lines and surveys from at least 11 different years between 1959-2016 to determine the position of the primary dune. CSE questions the OCRM methodology and recommends that OCRM utilize recent beach profile survey data elevations to determine the primary dune position. In many parts of the island, this would result in the baseline moving seaward.
The Town encourages all beachfront property owners to take advantage of the extended public comment period and review the OCRM website to ascertain whether their property is affected and to review the information about regulations and restrictions affecting property extending seaward of either line. Until April 6, 2018, any member of the public may provide comments to DHEC-OCRM. Comments can be submitted through the OCRM website or in writing to: DHEC-OCRM, Attn: Barbara Neale, 1362 McMillan Avenue, Suite 400, Charleston, SC. 29405.
If you have any questions you should first review the DHEC-OCRM website, which will provide the most complete and accurate information. However, if you have any questions that have not been answered there, please direct your question to Town Administrator, Stephanie Tillerson at firstname.lastname@example.org.