To the east, shoreline erosion is making Beaufort County smaller.
To the west, it’s a potentially shifting border with Jasper County that could shrink the county’s geographic footprint.
Staff and contractors with South Carolina’s Geodetic Survey team have spent over a year digging through historical maps and researching long-buried landmarks in an effort to clarify and redefine the boundary between the two counties near S.C. 170 in the Okatie area.
The team presented it’s findings to the Beaufort County Council earlier this week.
The result: “Beaufort County is giving up about 16 acres,” Councilman Paul Sommerville said.
David Ballard, a researcher with the state Geodetic Survey team, said the vast majority of the boundary shift falls within S.C. Department of Transportation rights-of-way along S.C. 170.
“There are no significant impacts” to property owners near the county line, he said.
State documents define a “significant impact” as one that results in a “residence or place of business being found in a different county” after the boundary shift.
The acreage lost by Beaufort County is “non-taxable property, so (the county) isn’t losing any income” due to the proposed border changes, Ballard said.
From a practical standpoint, clarifying the boundary can help with potential confusion over law enforcement jurisdictions, he said.
The process for determining exactly where a county border should fall is a complicated one.
David Branton with Summerville-based Cornerstone Surveying and Engineering said the first border between the two counties was drawn by the state in 1912 using many landmarks that no longer exist.
Some monuments referenced in old maps “are under the swamp” now, but have been identified by engineers and researchers, he said.
“We found a graveyard and an old road bed” at the former site of Hazel Episcopal Church, which was used as a point of reference in the 1912 border drawing, Branton said.
While the County Council unanimously approved a measure that would allow Jasper County to annex the 16 acres determined to now fall under its jurisdiction, the border shift is not a done deal.
State law requires new maps and survey data to be officially certified, which has not yet happened.
Those surveys are submitted to state agencies, archives and the affected counties.
Once that occurs — likely within the next few months — the new boundary “becomes law,” Ballard said.