S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

Sustainable Coastal Development and Economy Background

Population growth along the South Carolina coast is increasing at a rapid rate, with more than 300,000 new residents expected to move to coastal South Carolina by 2030. This growth has continued at a brisk pace putting the state among the country’s top 10 fastest-growing states in both the pace of growth (ranked 6th) and actual number of new residents (ranked 9th) for 2018-19. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a significant percentage of that growth is concentrated along the coast, particularly in the Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, and Charleston metro areas, and showing no signs of slowing with an estimated 33 newcomers moving to the Charleston area daily (Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, 2016) and even more to the north coast. This has and will continue to result in an explosion of residential and commercial development and concomitant pressures on the state’s coastal and marine resources. The coastal-dependent economy in South Carolina encompasses a wide variety of businesses, including commercial fishing, recreational fishing, aquaculture, tourism, and future endeavors such as energy development, South Carolina coastal planners, resource managers, developers, and those involved in commerce, industry, recreation, and tourism continue to face challenges associated with coastal resource management and economic development issues.

Traditional, water-dependent uses of coastal waterfront property are drastically changing as more of the U.S. population moves to the coast, and pressure for “highest and best use” development increases. For example, commercial fishermen are finding it more difficult to find and afford docking space, fuel, and ice. Sustaining traditional working waterfronts and balancing the changing needs of coastal communities is a challenge for individual property owners, commercial and recreational fishermen, developers, and resource managers. Solutions are needed to help preserve the historical and diverse profiles of coastal communities while allowing for community-driven economic development.

Offshore energy development is a consistent topic of discussion. Prominent discussions have been directed towards the development of wind energy. The private energy sector is engaged in discussions about the potential for onshore and offshore wind energy development in the coastal ocean of South Carolina, and yet we have little foundational information about the environmental and societal issues that may arise as this potential is realized. The focus of this program area is to provide information through the Consortium’s research and outreach programs that document the impacts of land use change and coastal and ocean resource development on marine and coastal resources, and address production and resource economics, policy, law, regulation, preservation, and development of coastal resources in support of a balanced and equitable resource–based economy, environment, and society.