South Carolina's Flagship University

Regulatory Pathfinder
for Coastal Development in South Carolina


In the state of South Carolina, seeking to construct a bulkhead will likely require a federal individual permit, in addition to a state permit. If the bulkhead will be in a traditionally navigable water under federal law, or will result in dredging or discharge of dredged material into a water of the U.S., it is virtually certain a federal permit will be required. Bulkheads are NOT eligible for any federal Nationwide Permits, but will require you to apply for an Individual Permit. In South Carolina, a Joint Application may be used apply for both permits. This Joint Application can be found here.

Non-Oceanfront Structures:

Under state law, a proposed activity involving bulkheads and revetments (rip-rap) that is not oceanfront would need to meet the following requirements:

  1. To the extent feasible, such structures must be designed to conform to the critical area line (upland boundary) and constructed in such a way that reflective wave energy does not destroy stable marine bottoms or constitute a safety hazard;
  2. Such structures can be constructed up to 18 inches away from existing escarpment. When this is not feasible, OCRM will determine the appropriate location on a site-by-site basis;
  3. Such structures are prohibited when a marsh is serving as an adequate erosion buffer in a location where adjacent property could be negatively impacted by erosion or sedimentation or where public access would be adversely affected, unless upland is being lost due to tidally induced erosion; and,
  4. Where public access is adversely affected, such structures are prohibited unless no feasible alternative exists.

S.C. Code Regs. 30-12(C).

Oceanfront Bulkheads and Revetments:

Under state law, a proposed activity involving bulkheads and revetments (rip-rap) that would be oceanfront would need to meet the following requirements:

  1. Because jetties and offshore breakwaters interfere with the natural transport of sediment, they require a special permit and will only be allowed after a thorough analysis demonstrates there will be no negative effect on adjacent areas.
  2. In such cases, the following standards must be met:
    1. OCRM must approve, before issuing a permit, a monitoring plan to assess post-project impacts on adjacent areas;
    2. A bond might be required to make sure any necessary remedial steps are taken to alleviate adverse effects to adjacent areas caused by these structures. Remedial measures can include redesign, reconfiguration or complete removal;
    3. Construction is prohibited from interfering with nesting and brood-rearing activities of sea birds, sea turtles or other wildlife species;
    4. Jetties must be designed to provide public recreational fishing, if possible;
    5. Written approval from the local government that has jurisdiction in the proposed project's area must be obtained.
  3. Erosion Control Structures or Devices: under state law, such structures must meet the following requirements:
    1. No new erosion control structures or devices will be allowed seaward of the setback line unless it is to protect a public highway that existed on June 25, 1990;
    2. Neither of these structures can be incorporated as an integral part of a habitable structure;
    3. Neither of these sorts of structures can be enlarged, strengthened, or rebuilt. They can be maintained in their present condition if they have not been destroyed more than
      1. 80% above grade through June 30, 1995;
      2. 66 2/3% above grade between July 1, 1995 through June 30, 2005;
      3. 50% above grade after June 30, 2005;
    4. Any structure considered destroyed more than the percentage set forth above must be removed at the owner's expense. However, nothing in this section requires removal of a structure which existed on July 1, 1998 that protected a public highway;
    5. If the structure existed on June 25, 1990 it cannot be repaired or replaced if destroyed
      1. more than 80% above grade through June 30, 1995;
      2. more than 66 2/3% above grade from July 1, 1995 through June 30, 2005;
      3. more than 50% above grade after June 30, 2005.

S.C. Code Regs. 30-13(N), S.C. CODE ANN. 48-39-290(B)(2)(b)(i), (ii) and (iii).

Last Updated October 29, 2010


This project was supported through a generous grant from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. The principal investigator is Professor Kim Diana Connolly at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Two law students, Keith Bartlett and Valerie Cochran, provided invaluable work toward project completion. Technical assistance with web design was provided by USC School of Law webmaster Tobias Brasier. Broken links should be reported to lawweb@law.sc.edu. This website is NOT intended as legal advice, and particularized analysis by professionals should be sought wherever appropriate.