Beachfront Jurisdiction and Authorization Requirements

South Carolina’s beaches are dynamic places; some beachfront shorelines accrete or gain sand while other shorelines erode. The coastline changes over time due to tides, waves, currents, tropical weather systems, as well as beach use and maintenance activities. DHEC OCRM is responsible for implementing a comprehensive statewide Beachfront Management Program established under the 1988 South Carolina Beachfront Management Act (Coastal Tidelands and Wetlands Act, as amended, §48-39-250 et seq.). This program includes managing the alteration and use of the beachfront critical areas that make up DHEC OCRM’s beachfront jurisdiction. South Carolina’s beachfront critical areas are defined in §48–39–10, and include:

  • Beaches - those lands subject to periodic inundation by tidal and wave action so that no nonlittoral vegetation is established.
  • Beach/Dune System - all land from the mean high-water mark of the Atlantic Ocean landward to the 40 year setback line described in §48–39–280.
  • Coastal Waters - the navigable waters of the United States subject to the ebb and flood of the tide and which are saline waters, shoreward to their mean high-water mark.

The beach/dune system critical area is identified by the state’s Beachfront Jurisdictional Lines. DHEC OCRM’s South Carolina Beachfront Jurisdictional Lines Viewer can be used to view the approximate location of the lines on a map, as well as adopted long-term erosion rates. In some cases, the beaches critical area may be located landward of the setback line. DHEC OCRM staff are available to assist property owners with identifying the location of the beaches and beach/dune system critical areas.

Beachfront Authorization Requirements

DHEC OCRM authorization is required for all proposed activities located wholly or partially within the state’s critical areas. Beachfront authorization for activities impacting the beaches and/or beach/dune system critical areas may be issued in the form of a Beachfront Notification, a Beachfront General Permit, or a Major Beachfront Critical Area Permit. Additional information on these types of beachfront authorizations is provided below. If your activity or property is located on active beach, additional restrictions apply. Active beach, as defined in §48–39–10, is that area seaward of the escarpment or the first line of stable natural vegetation, whichever occurs first, measured from the ocean. 

Beachfront Notification Requirements

The Beachfront Management Act requires DHEC OCRM to be notified of certain activities seaward of the setback line. Such activities that require notification include new construction, additions, and renovation of habitable structures as well as construction and replacement of pools that are landward of both the baseline and an existing erosion control device.

Please visit ePermitting.

Beachfront General Permits

Other activities require a General Permit from DHEC OCRM. These activities include the installation of utilities or service lines, drainage improvements, fences, driveways, small wooden decks, landscaping, and dune management activities like planting dune vegetation, installing sand fencing, or adding beach-compatible sand from an upland source. The General Permit application process includes submitting a complete application form and sketch of the proposed project. The applicant is also required to notify adjoining property owners and the local government via certified mail and run a 1-day legal ad in the local newspaper, which opens a 15-day public comment period for beachfront activities. There is no application fee for beachfront General Permits.

Please visit ePermitting to apply online.

Major Beachfront Critical Area Permits

Larger-scale projects like beach renourishment projects, inlet realignment projects, new oceanfront fishing piers, or houses seaward of the baseline require a Critical Area Permit from DHEC OCRM. For major activities, the Critical Area Permit application process includes submitting a complete application form, project narrative, professional stamped and signed drawings, and other supporting documents. Major activities go out on DHEC OCRM’s public notice for 30 days, and these projects frequently involve interagency review. The application fee for major activities is $1,000 ($250 if the applicant is a state or local government).

Please visit ePermitting to apply online.

Dune Walkover Structures

Dune walkovers and work performed in association with them do not require a DHEC OCRM permit as long as the following regulatory requirements found in S.C. Code Ann. Regulations 30-13(O)(1) are adhered to:

a) All components of the structure must be constructed of wood or Department-approved wood-like materials;

b) Have a maximum width of six feet;

c) Conform with the contour of the dunes and maintain a two-foot vertical clearance as measured from the top of the dune to the top of the walkover;

d) Displace no sand in the critical area;

e) Be constructed with as little environmental damage as possible;

f) Not be located within fifty feet of another walkover on the same parcel of property;

g) Be limited to no more than one of these structures per lot unless a limit of one would cause an unnecessary hardship as determined by OCRM;

h) Be shore perpendicular, except as necessary for handicapped access.


DHEC OCRM staff are available to assist property owners. If you suspect authorization may be required for your beachfront activity, or if you have questions related to authorization requirements, please contact DHEC OCRM’s Beachfront Management Section at (843) 953-0200. Visit the Project Manager Finder Application to find contact information for DHEC OCRM project managers by geographic area.



Ocean & Coastal Resource Management Permit Extension 2023