South Carolina's Flagship University

Regulatory Pathfinder
for Coastal Development in South Carolina

Emergency Orders and Situations

When an emergency situation arises before or after a storm local governments can issue emergency orders allowing property owners to construct temporary barriers against the wave uprush. Imminent danger to a structure is when erosion comes within 10 feet of a structure. Emergency orders of an appointed official of a county or municipality, when necessary to protect public health and safety, do not require a permit upon written notification to OCRM. In the beach/dune critical area only the use of sandbags, sand scraping, renourishment, or a combination thereof, is allowed when all of the standards listed on this page are met.

NOTE: An emergency is defined as "any unusual incident resulting from natural or unnatural causes which endanger the health, safety or resources of the residents of the State, including damages or erosion to any beach or shore resulting from a hurricane, storm or other such violent disturbance." S.C. CODE ANN. Section 48-39-10(U).

  1. Any Emergency Order issued between April 15 and November 1 must be reviewed by OCRM prior to actual performance of renourishment in order to protect Loggerhead turtle nesting sites.
  2. If possible written notice to OCRM should be provided prior to starting the emergency activity. The notice has to include the following:
    1. nature of the emergency;
    2. substance of the emergency order;
    3. time the order will be issued, or if prior notice was precluded, when the order was issued;
    4. the official's name issuing the order and the authority under which he or she is acting;
    5. the activity's location;
    6. estimated end date of the order.
  3. Emergency repairs to an existing bank, dike, fishing pier, or something other than an oceanfront erosion control structure or device that was built to meet federal and state laws or was provided for by general acts passed by the General Assembly, do not require a permit if written notice is given to OCRM with 72 hours of the start of the needed repairs. Notice by telephone, telegram or radio of emergency repairs is sufficient within 72 hours. However, within 5 days of starting the repairs the written notice must be given to OCRM.
  4. IF OCRM is not notified within 72 hours of the issuance of the emergency action taken, the emergency order will be in violation of the South Carolina Coastal Zone management Act, and the regulations. Any emergency order will also be in violation of the Act and regulations if the situation does not meet the definition of "emergency" above.
  5. Any emergency sandbagging, scraping and renourishment must meet the following standards unless otherwise approved by OCRM:
    1. Each person performing sandbagging, sandscraping or renourishment must have a copy of the Emergency Order in their possession.
    2. If a coastal structure is in immediate danger (erosion is within 10 feet of the structure) as determined by a local official, sandbags can be used to provide temporary protection if the following are met:
      1. Sandbags will be biodegradable and commercially manufactured for the purpose of holding sand;
      2. When filled, the bags can be a maximum of 5 gallons or 0.66 cubic feet and must be both filled and installed by hand;
      3. No bag may be placed further seaward than is necessary to protect the structure or to repair an erosion control structure. Sandbags CANNOT be used to protect a dune or to retard normal shoreline movement;
      4. Bags cannot be stacked at an angle steeper than 45 degrees;
      5. Only clean sand can be used in the bags. Beach sand can be used if the sand will be returned to the beach when the bags are removed;
      6. The property owner is responsible for the day to day maintenance of the bags. The bags shall remain in place and in good repair. The property owner is also responsible for removing the bags when ordered to do so by OCRM;
    3. Sandscraping can be used for coastal structures in immediate danger (erosion is within 10 feet of the structure), as determined by a local official. In issuing the emergency order the local government must use the following criteria:
      1. Sandscraping can only be used and performed to protect existing structures and cannot be used in front of an erosion control structure unless it can be proven that the erosion control structure itself is in danger of collapsing and is within 10 feet of the habitable structure;
      2. Sand can be scraped from the intertidal beach only and only between extended property lines of the structure getting the sand. Scraping depth cannot go deeper than one foot below the existing beach level;
      3. The sand can be placed against an eroded scarp or to replace an eroded dune seaward of a threatened structure. The dune cannot be more than 6 feet above grade or 20 feet wide as measured from dune toe to dune toe;
      4. Sand cannot be placed landward of an existing, functional erosion control device;
      5. Without prior OCRM approval sandscraping can be done only one time per property per Emergency Order issued by a local official;
  6. Renourishment can be used as a temporary protection of coastal structures if the local official determines the structure is in imminent danger (erosion is within 10 feet of the structure). Emergency orders must use the following criteria:
    1. Renourishment must come from an upland source and be OCRM-approved as beach compatible;
    2. Sand placed on the beach must be located between the extended property lines of the property getting the sand;
    3. Sand fencing and beach vegetation can be used as stabilizer pursuant to permitting requirements found in S.C. Code Regs. Section 30-17.

S.C. Code Regs. 30-15(H), 30-5(A)(1), (6), (B) and (C).

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.