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Governments Plan for Development of Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea Level: Jasper County, South Carolina

Additional background prepared by Matheny-Burns, the staff of Industrial Economics, and Jim Titus

Jasper County has one of the lowest population densities in the state: just under 32 persons per square mile compared to the average state density of 133 persons per square mile. There are only two incorporated municipalities in the county - Hardeeville with a population of 1,793 residents and the county seat of Ridgeland with a population of 2,518. Twenty-two percent of the county land area is classified as wetlands, and the southern half of the county lies at an elevation of 20 feet or less.

Approximately 70 percent of soils in Jasper have severe limitations for building, septic systems, and roads. Development in the southern and eastern portions of the county is precluded in many areas by extensive wetlands. Existing regulations by the US Army Corps of Engineers, SCDHEC, and OCRM for wetlands protection, drainage and septic systems significantly affect development patterns and potential in these sensitive areas. Another factor affecting future development potential is that two-thirds of the county is under large-scale ownership by commercial timber interest and hunt clubs. More than 80 percent of land is part of tracts that are 2,000 acres or larger.

Areas of strongest growth are anticipated for the southern and eastern portions of the county. The majority of new growth is slated for the Cherry Point area, an area east of Hardeeville along the county's border with Beaufort County. This growth is being fueled by the continued spillover of development from Hilton Head Island into the Bluffton area toward Jasper County. Additional growth will occur in the Hardeeville, Ridgeland, and Point South areas that flank the Interstate.

Shore protection is almost certain for areas that are currently developed. Approximately 40 percent of the developable land in the county is below the 20-ft contour. The County expects that a moderate portion of this land will be developed in the next five to ten years. Although these areas are largely surrounded by wetlands, there are pockets of good soil about 14 to 18 feet above sea level that are considered developable. The entire area south of Hardeeville is a secondary projected growth front, bounded south of Hardeeville by US-17 on the west and SC-46 and Alternate SC-170 on the east. This red area occupies the triangle-shaped space between Hardeeville, Limehouse, and Levy, and is bounded to the south by Secondary State Road 34. Lands in southwestern Beaufort County, directly to the east of this region, are also depicted as either likely or certain to be protected. .

Some development in is likely to proceed along the US-17/I-95 corridor. The county suggested that development is likely along all areas within one quarter mile of the interstate in either side of both highways. The portions of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, a 10,000-acre preserve controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are shown as conservation lands where shore protection would occur under existing policies.

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Governments Plan for Development of Most Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea (PDF, 7 pp., 1.3 MB, was originally published in Environmental Research Letters , Issue 3, Volume 4 (2009).

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