A coastal environmental organization lost its challenge of a 955-foot-long walkway over a Hilton Head Island marsh; now, residents of nearby properties are trying to halt the project.
With state permit in hand, however, the owner is ready to start building the walkway that will connect to a floating dock in a small tributary of Old House Creek. A barge already is stationed to begin work.
The nonprofit Coastal Conservation League wrote the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management in August to object to the permit application by Jeff Myers, arguing the project is more than is allowed.
Myers wants to build the walkway from his property at the end of Tanseyleaf Drive to a marsh island he owns beside a tributary of Old House Creek. The walkway would extend to a covered pierhead and floating dock with two boat lifts.
Residents of nearby Oak Marsh, Oakview and Spanish Pointe claim they were never notified about the permit and argue the dock will block access to the water, hinder navigation of the waterway and destroy bird habitat.
"It will be a 955-foot scar across that marsh," said Larry Jordan, who lives along Old House Creek. "It's a beautiful marsh, and any time you put a man-made structure that large, it's going to hurt the environment."
OCRM said it issued a public notice of the permit application Aug. 5 and contacted adjacent property owners as required by state law.
"All notification procedures throughout the permitting process were followed correctly," OCRM spokesman Dan Burger wrote in an email to The Island Packet. "Further, residents ... did not submit public comment nor request to be informed of the agency decision during the public comment period."
The Coastal Conservation League did not request a final review of the permit approval by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board.
Blair Williams, OCRM manager for wetland permitting and certification, said the walkway meets state requirements. It will first reach navigable water in less than 1,000 feet and will not block access to the Intracoastal Waterway, he wrote in a letter Thursday responding to neighbors' objections.
OCRM staff visited the site and determined the barge to be used to build the walkway was in the channel, not the marsh, of Old House Creek.
Jordan has asked the Town of Hilton Head Island to intervene, though its land management ordinance does not include dock regulations.
"OCRM permits the docks, and they send us notice, which we review and send OCRM our comments," town LMO official Teri Lewis said. "We look at access and any wetland buffers, and staff determined this dock would not impact a 20-foot wetland buffer."
Myers, in an email to the Packet, said he felt neighbors' objections were sufficiently addressed in Williams' letter.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.