South Carolina's Flagship University

Regulatory Pathfinder
for Coastal Development in South Carolina

Dock and Pier Sizes for Private, Commercial and Community Docks

South Carolina state regulations, implemented by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), set limits on the size of docks. The total allowable dock square footage includes the areas of any fixed pierheads, floating docks, the area of boat storage docks, additional areas covered by a roof, and areas bounded by an unroofed boat lift, davit or similar structure. It excludes walkways, ramps, mooring buoys and mooring piles. If authorized through these regulations, OCRM will allow an applicant to choose either one lift or one boat storage dock with an impact area of no greater than 160 square feet that will not count against the total allowable dock square footage. To determine creek width if there is no marsh vegetation, OCRM will use other indicators like changes in grade and the critical area boundary. OCRM may use maps and surveys applicants provide as well as GIS mapping. In some cases, site visits are deemed necessary.

Size of Creek/Allowable Dock Size

  1. Less than 10 feet - No dock
  2. Less than 20 feet (unless the lot has more than 500 feet) - No dock unless one of the conditions is met with respect to water frontage or no potential access via another dock, then 50 square feet limit and no boat lifts. Davits or boat storage docks may be allowed.
  3. Between 20 and 50 feet - 120 square feet unless special geographic circumstances or land uses warrant a larger dock
  4. Between 51 and 150 feet - 160 square feet unless special geographic circumstances or land uses warrant a larger dock
  5. More than 151 feet - 600 square feet unless special geographic circumstances or land uses warrant a larger dock

NOTE: if the subdivision had an approved Dock Master Plan as of May 24, 2002, numbers 1 and 2 above do not apply. Numbers 1 and 2 above also are not applicable to lots of record which existed as of May 24, 2002 through July 1, 2007 or the permit expiration, whichever is later. In some instances dock restrictions can be bypassed, but this is difficult and depends on a number of factors including: creek size, water frontage, likelihood of dock being authorized on the other side, etc.

Other restrictions on dock size include the following:

  1. You cannot enlarge a grandfathered or previously permitted fixed or floating dock that is larger than allowed above;
  2. Boathouses are not allowed to be enclosed;
  3. The reasonable navigation and public use of State lands and waters cannot be restricted by boats moored at docks;
  4. Boat storage docks, elevated boatlifts or davits that are 8 x 20 feet or less will not count against the total dock square footage listed above.

S.C. Code Regs. 30-12(A)(2)(c), (A)(4)(h). For general, go to the page of this Pathfinder dedicated to docks in general.

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.