South Carolina's Flagship University

Regulatory Pathfinder
for Coastal Development in South Carolina

How does OCRM decide whether to issue a permit?

There are many things OCRM must consider when evaluating the potential impacts of a project in the critical area and deciding whether to issue a permit. OCRM must balance and consider each. Guidelines that are required by statute or regulation are listed below:

  1. How much the activity requires a waterfront location or will be economically enhanced by proximity of water;
  2. Extent of obstruction to the natural flow of navigable water. If the project is in one or more of the State's harbors, in a waterway for commercial navigation and shipping, or in an area set aside for port development in an approved management plan, OCRM must obtain a certificate from the South Carolina State Ports Authority that declares the project or activity will not unreasonably interfere with commercial navigation and shipping prior to issuing the permit;
  3. The extent to which the completed project would affect fish, shrimp, oysters, or crab production, any marine or wildlife, or other natural resources in the area, including to but not limited to water and oxygen supply;
  4. If the activity can cause erosion, shoaling of channels or create stagnant water;
  5. How much the activity could affect existing public access to tidal and submerged lands, navigable waters and beaches, or other recreational coastal resources;
  6. How much impact the activity could have on habitats for rare and endangered species of wildlife or irreplaceable historic and archeological sites on South Carolina's coastal zone;
  7. The extent of economic benefits compared to the benefits of preserving an area in its unaltered state;
  8. The extent to which any adverse environmental impact cannot be avoided by reasonable safeguards;
  9. "The extent to which all feasible safeguards are taken to avoid adverse environmental impact resulting from a project;"
  10. How much the proposed use could affect the value and enjoyment of adjacent owners.

S.C. Code Regs. 30-11(B).

The following are additional statutory guidelines OCRM must consider before approving a permit:

  1. The long-range, cumulative effects of the project that could result because of other possible development and the general character of the area;
  2. If overall plans and designs of a project can be submitted together and evaluated as a whole instead of piecemeal and fragmented which limits comprehensive evaluation;
  3. The extent and significance of negative impacts to Geographic Areas of Particular Concern (GAPC). OCRM will make determinations about the extent of the negative impacts with reference to the use priorities for that particular GAPC. These priorities of uses can be found in Chapter IV of the Coastal Management Program.

S.C. Code Regs. 30-11(C).

In the case of a Beach or Beach/Dune system there are additional guidelines OCRM must consider. These are listed below:

  1. New construction will be discouraged and those with existing structures will be encouraged to retreat;
  2. Soft-solutions to erosion within the context of a policy of retreat of development from the shore will be promoted. OCRM will work to prevent the strengthening and enlargement of existing erosion control structures;
  3. Public access to the State's beaches will be promoted;
  4. State and local comprehensive plans will be considered. If a permit would be inconsistent with the State plan it will not be approved. All permits must be consistent with local plans to the maximum extent practicable;
  5. OCRM will be guided by the prohibitions against construction in Section 48-39-290 and 300 that are based on the "conclusion that ill-planned development, whether habitable structures, recreational amenities, erosion control devices or other mandmade structures, will now and in the future adversely impact the fragile beach/dune system. These structures interfere with the natural system and impact the highest and best uses of the system. In order to protect the highest and best uses of the beach/dune system, [OCRM], in its management capacity, shall encourage minimal development therein;"
  6. Unless there is no feasible alternative, any destruction of beach or dune vegetation seward of the setback line will be prohibited. If destruction of vegetation is permitted seaward of the setback line, mitigation will be required. Planting new vegetation to rectify destruction will be required as part of the permit conditions. No building will be constructed on a primary oceanfront sand dune under any circumstances;
  7. Findings and polices found in the 1977 Coastal Zone Management Act, which can be found here or by searching www.scstatehouse.net, code of laws for the Coastal Zone Management Act.

S.C. Code Regs. 30-11(D).

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.