upper left graphic upper right graphic

State Facts

Miles of Coast: 2,876

Coastal Population (2000): 1,219,958

Lead Coastal Management Agency: Department of Health and Environmental Control

Approval Date: 1979

lower left graphic lower right graphic

Ocean and Coastal Management in South Carolina

South Carolina's Coastal Program

The South Carolina Coastal Program was approved by NOAA in 1979 and the lead agency is the Department of Health and Environmental Control. The primary authority for the Coastal Program is the 1977 Coastal Tidelands and Wetlands Act. The South Carolina coastal zone includes all lands and waters in the counties of the State which contain any one or more “critical areas” which are defined as coastal waters, tidelands, beaches, and primary oceanfront sand dunes. The Coastal Program has direct permitting authority over the coast's "critical areas." Through its authority to review and approve federal and state permits in the eight coastal counties, the Coastal Program manages the state's coastal resources in partnership with other state and federal agencies.

South Carolina photo

Through the implementation and encouragement of better stormwater management practices, the South Carolina Coastal Program is improving the health of estuaries.


The Coastal Program has led the effort to develop several special area management plans (SAMPs) to better protect and manage resources. The Coastal Program has developed SAMPs for the Ashley River, Beaufort County, and Charleston Harbor. The Coastal Program also works to improve water quality through the implementation and encouragement of low impact development stormwater management techniques, best management practices, and promoting septic system planning and maintenance.

South Carolina's National Estuarine Research Reserves

The Ace Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 134,710 acres in parts of Colleton, Charleston, Beaufort and Hampton counties. The Reserve was designated in 1992 and the lead management agency is the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The ACE Basin is one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast. It’s named for the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers, which meander past cypress swamps, historic plantation homes, old rice fields and abundant tidal marshes to meet at South Carolina’s biologically rich St. Helena sound.

Research activities at the Reserve include monitoring water quality and weather to evaluate the overall health of the ACE Basin ecosystem. The Reserve also researches the abundance and types of important plant and animal species to enable long-term protection of these resources. Through a variety of educational programs, the Reserve provides timely information to coastal decision makers, lawmakers, teachers, students and the general public. The Reserve sponsors a summer lecture series, develops curriculum materials for teachers, offers a touch tank program for children, and conducts educational cruises to educate students and teachers about estuaries. The ACE Basin Coastal Training Program offers information and training on a variety of critical coastal issues including coastal habitat conservation, restoration, water quality, sustainable development, stormwater management, and land use planning.

North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a 12,327-acre natural area, is located in Georgetown County, 30 miles south of Myrtle Beach and 50 miles north of Charleston. The Reserve was designated in 1992 and the lead management agency is the University of South Carolina. The Reserve contains tidal and transitional marshes, oyster reefs, beaches, inter-tidal flats, coastal island forests and open waterways. North Inlet is a relatively pristine system and the water and habitat quality are much higher than in Winyah Bay.

The Reserve provides coastal training for local leaders and educational opportunities for families and children. The stewardship program conducts exotic beach vitex mapping, general habitat mapping, and diamondback terrapin research and conservation. The Reserve’s research activities focus on monitoring and include the development of a water chemistry database to monitor nutrients in the North Inlet estuary system.  This monitoring program combines the water chemistry, chlorophyll a, and suspended sediment monitoring data with other existing ecological data to provide ecosystem level information and understanding.

Program Achievements

South Carolina Develops Onsite Septic System Management Toolkit

Ashley River Special Area Management Plan, South Carolina

Links

South Carolina Coastal Program — The website provides information on the Program’s activities including planning and technical assistance, permitting, and reducing nonpoint pollution.

Ace Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve — The website provides information on the Reserve's Coastal Training Program.

North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve — The Reserve's website provides information on their many research, education, and stewardship activities.

Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology — This program brief describes investments in technology development and research projects for the state of South Carolina.

Marine Protected Areas — Search for marine protected areas in South Carolina.

South Carolina Nonpoint Program Conditional and Final Approval Documents — The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program encourages better coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone.

South Carolina Coastal Program Evaluation (2008) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of federally approved state coastal management programs.

South Carolina Coastal Zone Enhancement Program Assessment and Strategy (2011-2016) — Every five years, the Coastal Zone Management Act encourages states and territories to conduct self-evaluations of their coastal management programs to assess significant changes in the state’s coastal resources and management practices, identify critical needs, and prioritize areas for enhancement under the Coastal Zone Enhancement Program.

Ace Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve Evaluation (2011) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of estuarine research reserves.

North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (2011) — The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management conducts periodic performance reviews of estuarine research reserves.

Contact Information for South Carolina's Programs

Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management
Department of Health and Environmental Control
1362 McMillian Avenue, Suite 400
Charleston, SC 29405-2029
(843) 953-0200

ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 12559
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 953-9347

North Inlet-Winyah National Estuarine Research Reserve
P.O. Box 1630
Georgetown, SC 29442
(843) 546-3623