COLUMBIA, SC Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday over the state’s failure to force the removal of experimental seawalls that they say are keeping rare sea turtles from reaching nesting sites at beaches in Charleston and Beaufort counties.
The suit, filed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, says federally protected loggerhead sea turtles are suffering because the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control allowed the walls to remain in place, even though the devices were supposed to come down last summer. The S.C. Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club filed the suit.
The DHEC board overturned a staff decision last summer that ordered property owners at Harbor Island and Isle of Palms to remove the plastic walls, known as “wave dissipation’’ devices. The walls are supposed to protect valuable oceanfront property by blocking rising seas without further eroding beaches. They were approved by lawmakers as an experiment.
But conservation groups and some property owners say the walls have become an impediment to endangered sea turtles.
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“Beach armoring, such as with these wave dissipation systems, results in the inability of breeding females to reach their nesting sites above the high tide line,’’ according the S.C. Environmental Law Project, which filed suit on behalf of the Sierra Club and the S..C. Wildlife Federation.
DHEC, the state’s environmental protection agency, had no immediate comment. The agency’s board is scheduled to discuss the seawall issue again at its meeting Thursday in Columbia.