Regulations to Follow when Building a Dock or Seawall

OCRM Process

We get it! You’re eager to have your dock/seawall built. As excited as we are to start your project, there is a strict process that has to be followed to ensure we’re abiding by the state’s regulations. South Carolina is fortunate enough to have more than 2,800 miles of tidal saltwater marshes. With that being said, it is extremely important we stay cautious when building on/near these waters.

The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) is here to keep our marshes healthy and safe to the many plant and animal species that reside in these spaces. This blog serves as a quick guide to help individuals through the OCRM process in the critical area of South Carolina

The critical area is defined as all tidelands, coastal waters, beaches, and oceanfront sand dune systems (“Building a Dock in the South Carolina Low Country” ). Before building your dock, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the state’s regulations on dock building. They are as follows:

  • Docks should not be located on or near sensitive natural resources, such as oyster beds. These beds are highly efficient filter feeders that help keep the water clean of sediments and pollutants. They also provide shelter for other species and help keep marsh edges from eroding.
  • Docks typically must end at the first navigable creek.
  • Dock length is limited to no more than 1000 ft.
  • Dock typically cannot cross side extended property lines or dock corridor lines.
  • Docks cannot restrict public access to and in state waterways.

You can find these regulations in more depth at They are also available in hard copy at your local OCRM office (“Building a Dock in the South Carolina Low Country” ).

After reviewing the regulations pertaining to building on the water, you will then have to apply for a permit (if you don’t have one already). A dock/seawall located on a federally maintained waterway, such as the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW), will likely require a federal permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers as well as a DHEC-OCRM permit. This activity results in a ‘Joint Public Notice’ issued by the two agencies (“Critical Area Permitting – Frequently Asked Questions” ). The DHEC-OCRM applications can be found at: or in person at the OCRM office.

If needed, the United States Army Corps of Engineers permit application can be found here: I’ve added a few FAQs below in hopes to help clarify the process.

Frequently asked questions regarding the permitting process:

1. How much does a permit cost?
Depending on where you live and what the permit is for, they can range anywhere from $1500-$2500.

2. How long does it take to get a permit?
A permit can take up to 8 months to process. With that in mind, it is important to start this procedure as soon as possible to have your construction complete in a timely manner.

3. How long does a permit last?
Permits generally last up to 3 years from the date of issue.

4. Will I need separate permits for my dock/seawall/boatlift?
Again, this depends on where you live. But the low country requires multiple permits if you don’t get one that’s inclusive to everything you want to build.

We understand that it’s hard to wait for this process to be over, but it’s essential to protect the beauty around you. If you’re confused about something or have any questions what so ever, feel free to contact us. We’ve been through the process a million times and will be able to provide you with direction to help take some of the weight off your shoulders – (843) 557-1234