South Carolina's coastal zone is subject to well-known hazards associated with coastal storms as well as long-term, gradual changes such as continued sea level rise and saltwater intrusion. These hazards can place environmental, economic, and cultural resources at risk. DHEC is currently working on several hazard mitigation and planning activities including participation on the State Hazard Mitigation Interagency Coordination Committee (led by the SC Emergency Management Division) and a variety of policy initiatives at the state, regional, and national level. The SC Beachfront Management Act also requires documentation of post-storm recovery plans in Local Comprehensive Beach Management Plans, and DHEC staff provide technical assistance to communities preparing these plans. DHEC-OCRM was also recently appointed as the lead SC agency for regional approaches to coastal disaster resilience under the Governor's South Atlantic Alliance.
Development of a Coastal Vulnerability Index
Coastal areas face considerable development pressures, which often lead to built communities threatened by chronic erosion, powerful storms, and gradual sea level rise, among other hazards. Coastal hazards have significant economic, social, and ecological impacts, since over half of the US population lives in coastal areas. In South Carolina, efforts to reduce hazard risks led to the 1988 Beachfront Management Act (BMA), which was implemented to protect “life, property, and unique habitats…for the future”. The BMA included regulations on beachfront construction/reconstruction, repairs, and erosion control structures, and it limited seaward movement of development by establishing both baseline and setback lines. Although these policies project long-term historical erosion rates 40 years into the future, they do not account for sudden shoreline changes due to storms or for sea level rise.
By creating a coastal vulnerability index, DHEC will be able to identify and evaluate the areas within coastal communities that may be most affected by both chronic and episodic hazards. The index will include data on both the physical (elevation, long-term erosion rate, proximity to inlets, width of beach, etc.) and socio-economic (ability to fund future renourishment, local setback ordinances, etc.) aspects of the South Carolina coastline. Armed with knowledge of the vulnerabilities of our coastal communities, DHEC will work with coastal municipalities to mitigate and adapt to risks from coastal hazards, while creating more resilient communities.
Research and Policy Development
- South Carolina State Hazard Mitigation Plan
- Hurricane Preparation and Recovery
- State and Local Comprehensive Beach Management Planning
Extension and Education