Critical Area Permitting - Minor Activities

Minor development activities include the construction, maintenance, repair or alteration of any private pier or erosion control structure and construction which does not involve dredging (e.g. private docks, non-oceanfront erosion control structures, and additions to existing dock structures such as floating or fixed boat storage structures, floating docks and pierheads).

Parcel requirements

  • To be eligible for a dock a property must meet the definition of waterfront property which is defined as upland sites where a straight-line extension of both, generally shore perpendicular, upland property lines reaches a navigable watercourse within 1000’ of the marsh critical line. Please note: Waterfront property may also be identified via an approved dock master plan (DMP) where designated corridors differing from upland property line extensions are delineated. Contact your local DHEC OCRM office to determine whether your subdivision has an approved DMP.
  • For lots subdivided after May 23, 1993:
    • To be eligible for a private or commercial dock, a lot must have:
      • 75 feet of frontage at the marsh edge, and
      • 75 feet between its extended property lines at the location in the waterbody of the proposed dock.
    • To be eligible for a Joint use or community dock each adjoining lot must have:
      • 50 feet of frontage at the marsh edge, and
      • 50 feet between its extended property lines at the location in the waterbody of the proposed dock.

Size allowances for private, recreational single and joint use docks 

  • Private recreational single use dock – A facility that provides access for one family and is not a marina
  • Private recreational joint use dock – A facility that provides access and use for two to four families and is not a marina.

Specific regulations dictate the size of the dock structure as it relates to the size of the creek. Creek width is typically measured as the open water from marsh grass to marsh grass. The following guidelines are currently used to limit maximum dock size:

  • Creeks 10' or less = no dock structures allowed
  • Creeks less than 20' wide = no dock structures allowed unless specific geographic circumstances exist*
  • Creek width 20' - 50' = 120 square feet
  • Creek width 51' - 150' = 160 square feet
  • Creek width larger than 150' = 600 square feet
  • *On creeks less than 20' wide, a dock may be permitted only if the property has a minimum of 500' of frontage or there is no potential dockage from the other side of the creek. However, under no circumstances will boatlifts, davits or boat storage docks be permitted. All structures will be limited to a maximum of 50 square feet.
  • There are site-specific allowances for larger structures. Contact your local DHEC-OCRM office to discuss your circumstances.
  • As defined in regulation, DHEC OCRM calculates square footage as the total area of any fixed pier head, floating dock, areas bounded by roofs, boatlifts and davit systems, and boat storage docks (i.e. floating jet docks and all similar structures). Square footage does not include the walkway, ramps, catwalks, mooring piles or davit systems.
  • The Department will allow additional square footage for joint use docks above and beyond the size allowed for individual docks, not to exceed 2 times the size restrictions listed above, contingent upon the sharing of the walkway and pierhead.  

Boat Storage Requirements

Boat storage structures are any structure associated with a dock that is used for the purpose of storing a boat out of the water and may include, but is not limited to, boatlifts, davits, and any other type of floating vessel platform. Boat storage structures are allowed, provided the entire docking system is limited to the minimum structure size needed to accomplish the intended use. The following standards will be used in evaluating applications for boat storage structures:

  • Single family docking facilities will be limited to one boat storage structure per docking facility on creeks between 20 feet and 50 feet; and a maximum of two boat storage structures will be allowed on creeks wider than 50 feet.
  • Hull scraping, sandblasting, painting, paint removal, and major engine repair are prohibited on lifts and davits.
  • Boatlifts must be open sided with no enclosures. Catwalks are allowed to provide access on one side and shall be a maximum of 3 feet wide.
  • Boat storage structures will not count against the total dock square footage as outlined in the allowable sizes for private docks section if the size of the structure is 8 feet by 20 feet or less. The area of any larger structure greater than 160 square feet will count against the total allowable dock square footage.

Erosion Control Structures (non-ocean front)

Bulkhead - a retaining wall designed to retain fill material, but not to withstand wave forces on an exposed shoreline.

Revetment - a sloping structure built along an escarpment or in front of a bulkhead to protect the shoreline or bulkhead from erosion.

Regulatory Standards

 In an attempt to mitigate certain environmental losses that can be caused by these structures, the following standards are adopted:

  • Structures must be designed to conform to the critical area line (upland boundary), to the maximum extent feasible, and constructed so that reflective wave energy does not destroy stable marine bottoms or constitute a safety hazard;
  • Structures may be constructed up to 18 inches from the existing escarpment. In situations where this is not feasible, Department staff will determine the location of the bulkhead or revetment on a site by site basis;
  • Bulkheads and revetments will be prohibited where marshlands are adequately serving as an erosion buffer, where adjacent property could be detrimentally affected by erosion or sedimentation, or where public access is adversely affected unless upland is being lost due to tidally induced erosion.
  • Bulkheads and revetments will be prohibited where public access is adversely affected unless no feasible alternative exists.

How to Apply for a Critical Area Permit

1. Please visit ePermitting to apply online. If you need assistance with the application process or would like to discuss your proposed project before submitting an application, please contact your local DHEC OCRM office and request to speak with a Critical Area Project Manager.

2. A non-refundable administrative application fee is required. Please see the Fee Schedule below. This fee may be paid electronically via ePermitting or paid by check payable to DHEC OCRM.

  1. The application requires the following information regarding the project and the property involved:
  • The names, addresses, telephone numbers, and emails of the landowners and authorized agents
  • The dimensions, specifications, and purpose of the project
  • The names and complete mailing addresses and emails of all adjoining property owners
  • A detailed description of the location of the project
  1. An Affidavit of Ownership or Control form must be completed, signed and notarized and include one of the following: 1) legal description and/or copy of the certified plat of the property or 2) a certified copy of the deed, lease, easement, or other instrument under which the applicant claims title, or permission from the owner of the property to carry out the proposed activity.
  1. Applications must be accompanied by drawings that are produced, stamped and signed by one of the following professional groups: registered land surveyors, registered professional engineers or registered landscape architects. These individuals must be licensed in the state of South Carolina. DHEC OCRM will not accept hand drawings or other drawings not meeting these criteria. Applications with drawings judged to be inexact and unprofessional will not be placed on public notice and will be returned to the applicant.
  1. A location map(s) showing the location of the proposed activity is required. 
  1.  Applicants or their agents are required to run a public notice in a local newspaper. The subsequent affidavit of publication should then be submitted to DHEC OCRM. The notice must run within fifteen days of DHEC OCRM's public notice. Affidavits of publication outside of this window will be returned, a new ad will need to be placed in the appropriate newspaper, and a new affidavit of publication will need to be submitted.

Once a complete application has been submitted, DHEC OCRM will run a 15 calendar day public notice for a new critical area permit and 10 calendar days for a critical area permit amendment.

Permit Fees

Permit Type     Fee

Minor Permit for private docks with walkways 101' and longer


Minor Permit for private docks with walkways 100' or less

Minor Permit for erosion control structures (non-beachfront) $250
Minor Permit for additions to docks not covered under the general permit (boat storage dock, floating jet dock, etc.) $250
Dock General Permit $100
Major Permit $1,000
Minor Permit Transfers and Extensions $25
Major Permit Transfers and Extensions $100
Minor Permit Amendment $100
Major Permit Amendment $1,000


Ocean & Coastal Resource Management