South Carolina policies are barely adequate in protecting our beaches against coastal erosion, sea level rise and shoreline development, according to a new study.
The Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental organization that works to “protect and preserve the world’s oceans, waves and beaches,” released the 2017 State of Beach Report Card on Tuesday.
The report covers all 30 coastal states, as well as Puerto Rico.
Good news for South Carolina, the state was given a C, which is better than the failing grades neighboring states received. Georgia received an F and North Carolina and Florida received a D.
The report was published in the midst of a debate over more restrictive beach-building requirements and enforcement by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, and as coastal communities, such as Beaufort, try to come up with a plan to mitigate sea level rise and high rates of flooding.
“South Carolina has generally good policies on coastal development, erosion response and shoreline structures but has made little progress on issues such as climate change and sea level rise,” the report said.
As far as sea level rise, the study said that, “despite having nearly 40 percent of the coast listed as highly vulnerable to sea level rise, the state does not have a plan for responding to or adapting to sea level rise.”
The report recommended that South Carolina remove coastal “armoring” exceptions in place, such as sea walls or Wave Dissipation Systems, conduct a thorough sea level rise vulnerability assessment and prohibit the rebuilding of coastal structures seaward of the setback line that were destroyed due to natural hazards.
“Our beaches are disappearing at alarming rates, and our report shows that the majority of states do not have strong policies in place to protect our coasts, or worse, have loopholes that actually prevent it,” Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, said in a news release. “A glaring trend of the report reveals that many of the areas hit hardest from recent extreme weather events are the least prepared to address coastal erosion, rising sea levels and the increasing impacts of climate change.”
Thirteen states scored a D or F, including states that have fared the worst in hurricanes over the past few years. Every state along the Gulf of Mexico scored a D or F — except Texas, which scored a C. California was the only state that received an A.
2017 State Beach Grades
New Hampshire: B
New Jersey: F
New York: B
North Carolina: D+
Puerto Rico: D
Rhode Island: B
South Carolina: C
Source: Surfrider Foundation