Statehouse Honoring Fight To Save Maritime Forest

By Karen Byko for Island Eye News

District 112 State Rep. Joe Bustos is formally presenting House Resolution 4663 to the Town of Sullivan’s Island Friday afternoon at 2:30pm. The resolution commends Sullivan’s Island’s Town Council and its residents “for protecting and preserving the Maritime Forest.” 

“When I was elected, I said I thought the Maritime Forest should be maintained, and that’s the message the people of Sullivan’s Island sent,” Bustos said. “I thought the election and the Sullivan’s Island Town Council should be recognized.” 

WHO: State Representative Joe Bustos

WHAT: Formal presentation of House Resolution 4663

WHERE: Station 16 boardwalk on beach on Sullivan’s Island

WHEN: 2:30pm (please arrive at 2:15pm)

WHY: To support efforts to save and protect the Maritime Forest on Sullivan’s Island, home to a variety of species of wildlife and protector against storm surge, flooding and climate change for thousands of island residents.

“Invalid and unenforceable” is how a former Federal Judge hired by the Town of Sullivan’s Island describes the controversial mediation settlement that would allow huge swaths of the forest to be cut down.

“We are excited that Town Council has received this unambiguous legal opinion from such a respected legal expert,” said Sullivan’s Island for All President Karen Byko. “Town Council was elected by a landslide in the largest voter-turnout in island history with a mandate to save the maritime forest.”

Attorney William Wilkins was hired by the new Town Council in October to independently review the mediation settlement. Wilkins is a former federal judge, now working for Nexsen Pruet Law Firm in Greenville. Wilkins submitted his written opinion to the Town Council on November 30th.

In his opinion (CLICK HERE TO READ), Wilkins details key reasons that the mediation settlement is “invalid and unenforceable.”

1. The settlement agreement improperly restricts the legislative/governmental powers of present and future Town Councils.
2. The settlement agreement unlawfully delegates the legislative/governmental powers of the Town.
3. The settlement agreement unreasonably restricts the proprietary functions of the Town.
4. The provisions of the settlement are unenforceable in law or contract, and the unenforceable provisions cannot be severed from the settlement agreement.

In another major development, The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued a letter to Sullivan’s Island stating that because the “level of tree removal is significant” under the controversial Maritime Forest Lawsuit Settlement, a Major Critical Area Permit from DHEC would be required if the town wishes to pursue the plan.

“DHEC found that in certain areas, 96% of all trees would be removed,” said Byko. “Studies by three federal agencies including NOAA and FEMA show that the density and height of vegetation and trees is our most important protection from our #1 threat on the island: hurricane storm surge.”

The majority of residents on Sullivan’s Island believe this mass cutting would make all residents less safe and put our private and public properties at higher risk to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

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