• Credit: NSF/Andrew Kemp, Yale University

A South Carolina blue-ribbon commission working to re-envision the state’s 25-year-old Beachfront Management Act will likely give up on the law’s central notion, a policy of retreat from the shoreline to move development away from the water, according to a report in the Island Packet (“Panel working to update SC beach retreat policy,” by Bruce Smith).

The supposed policy hasn’t spurred much in the way of action, the paper reports. Said Wes Jones of Hilton Head Island, who chairs the commission, “If you look at the coast, it would be hard to conjure up an argument that there has been much retreat."

Instead, says the paper, the commission is likely to state the case in opposite fashion: it will recommend a policy where the legal line limiting construction near the water will not be moved closer to the water. “In the past, when beaches were rebuilt with sand, regulators would get calls asking that the line be moved seaward because there was more ground to develop,” the paper reports.

In related news, people in the Beaufort County, S.C., market are pushing the state to lower their windstorm insurance premiums, reports the Island Packet (“Work to lower SC's coastal home-insurance rates gains traction,” by Gina Smith). Retired utility executive Daryl Ferguson told the paper that “even though the state's coast, particularly in Beaufort County, is seldom hit by hurricanes, insurance companies are charging homeowners here more than those who live in areas hard hit by recent hurricanes, including Gulfport, Miss.,” the paper reports.

Meanwhile, in the other Beaufort — Beaufort, N.C. — concerned citizens met to hear about the risk of sea level rise from Spencer Rogers, a coastal construction and erosion expert with the North Carolina Sea Grant, the Carteret County News-Times reported (“Crossroads hears about sea level rise, alternate energy,” by Mike Shutak).

Rogers was a member of the Science Panel for North Carolina’s Coastal Resources Commission, which in a 2010 report recommended that the state plan for a likely sea level rise of about a meter by 2100. But that report provoked political blowback from opponents who doubt the science of climate change.

Rogers told a meeting of the Carteret Crossroads volunteer group that a meter of sea level rise over the course of the century amounts to a tiny amount each year compared to the daily and monthly changes in the tide, or compared to individual flood events. “The average change per year in sea level rise from 2010 to 2100 is six nickels thick,” he said. “The rise is almost imperceptible. It’s a very slow change; the worst results will be 100, 200 years in the future.”

If you’re planning for a time frame like a home mortgage, or a house’s lifetime, the long view is relevant, Rogers argued. But he said that reasonable accommodation to present-day risk could also serve the purpose of reducing the long-term risk of rising seas. Pointing to the example of “freeboard” — an extra foot, or, in some communities, two feet of elevation above the Base Flood Elevation required for an oceanfront home’s pile foundation — Rogers said, “In Beaufort, Morehead City and Newport, that buys us 41 years.”

But present concerns, as much as the far future, are enough to justify precautions, argued Rogers. “What we need to ask is what’s the most compelling reasons to take them,” he said. “We don’t need to look at 2100 conditions; we need to look at our problems now.”