Monday, November 16, 2009

Legislators need your help watching our eroding shorelines

Bluffton Today

Veteran’s Day is always a big deal in Beaufort County and this year was no exception. Not only do we have a large military population, we have a great number of military retirees and veterans, both retired and working. Both the weather and the sad events at Fort Hood cast something of a pall over the public commemorations this year, but our feelings of gratitude and respect for the sacrifice and service of our veterans was just as heartfelt as during any parade or flyover.

In keeping with this, I got a call recently from a new friend, Russ Spicer, who happens to live out at Hampton Hall in Bluffton. Russ had a very moving story about a friend of his who was wounded during military service.

Russ and several other veterans are organizing an extensive program that will key into the Wounded Warrior Project that provides services for wounded military service members and caregivers. They are planning a golf tournament and other events to help get this effort off the ground. If you are interested in being a part of this good work, give me a call and I will put you in touch with Russ, or you can call him directly. Russ has promised to keep us informed on the scheduling of events and possible opportunities for volunteers to participate.

One of the issues we are going to be working on as we reconvene after the first of the year has to do with shoreline change along our coastal areas. My friend and colleague, Representative Shannon Erickson is particularly engaged in this area as her district encompasses Hunting Island State Park and a number of barrier island communities that are struggling with how to deal with our dynamic coastline.

There is a blue-ribbon panel, which has been studying this problem for over two years. They have published a final draft report which includes recommendations on how we should deal with not only erosion along our rivers and beaches, but also how we should handle the dredging requirements of the various channels and marinas along the coast.

With the tragedy of Hunting Island State Park rapidly eroding and the memory of the dredging debacle on the south end of Hilton Head Island still fresh in our memory, we need as many eyes on this draft report as possible. I am going to give you a pathway from the DHEC site to the report. Please look over the document and let me know what you think needs to be added or subtracted or whether you think the advisory committee got it pretty much right. My thinking is that it is a pretty solid piece of work, but we need to hear from you.

Go to: www.scdhec.gov and click on “environment”. Scroll down and click on “Coastal/Ocean” and then look on the upper right side of the page under “DHEC/OCRM Headlines” for Draft Final Report of the Shoreline Change Advisory Committee.

Representative Erickson will probably be the point of the spear on this effort, but the more we can hear from you, the more likely we can craft productive changes to the current regime, and the more likely we avoid unintended consequences. We know that the sea levels are rising and our already dynamic shorelines are subject to increasing pressures from the ocean and landward from development. We have to be proactive to conserve our natural resources, as well as preserve the tremendous economic benefit we derive from our geography.