Critical Lines: Are They Really That Critical?

What you’ll need to know before building on the water

The Charleston Real Estate market is on the rise and more competitive than ever when it comes to scenic water views. If you’re looking to purchase a property, or already own a home on the water, I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “critical line.” Let us at Carolina Dock & Marine be the first to say, it is CRITICAL that you know what this means. All water front property is not created equal and these lines vary depending on the area you’re in.

“The critical area is defined as coastal waters, tidelands, beaches and beach/dune systems (“Critical Area Permitting”).” So, what exactly is a critical line? It’s invisible and not exactly obvious to one’s eye. But to put it in simpler terms, this line is (roughly) where the marsh and marsh grass meet the high land. The Office of Coastal Resource and Management (OCRM) will typically monitor all building on the marsh, waterways, tidelands, and beach dune systems. There are very strict guidelines on how close a home or structure can be to the critical line as well as what plants can be removed from these areas.

Any project involving the critical line with require a DHEC-OCRM permit. Before building your dock, bulkhead, boat ramp, or other project, you’ll need to let them perform a Critical Line Survey in order to complete the process for your permit. This isn’t a one-time deal. It is essential to receive an update on a critical line as it may change over time. Something to keep in mind, is that the state does conduct fly over photos of the waterways and they will issue a fine to anyone building in areas that are prohibited.
Yes, this may seem like a hassle, but don’t let it get to you. It’s all necessary to protect mother nature’s gifts to us. We care about the wetlands and waterways and realize that a small change now, can have a significant impact on the future.