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McKenzie Beach: State issues warning after investigation of marsh filling

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

State regulators found more fill placed on a road through the marsh at McKenzie Beach in September, but said it didn’t impact the marsh. They have now closed an investigation that started in July after construction debris was placed in the marsh along the road.

Owners of the property, McKenzie Beach LLC and McKenzie Beach Heirs LLC, received a warning letter last week from the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

Any further work done at McKenzie Beach without a permit that impacts the salt marsh will be considered a repeat violation and will prompt legal action, Ryan Reed, an agency enforcement official told the owners.

Coastal Resources was called to the site in late June after a neighbor reported a backhoe spreading material on the road through the marsh.

The owners obtained state and county permits to demolish the remains of a motel and restaurant along Highway 17 that dated to the 1950s. Building material along with insulation, electrical conduit and plumbing fixtures were dumped along the road.

The causeway across the marsh dates to the days when McKenzie Beach was a popular beach resort for blacks during the era of segregation. The property runs from Highway 17 to Clubhouse Creek, and includes 5 acres on the south end of Litchfield Beach that were once connected to the mainland by a foot bridge.

The construction debris and other fill material were used to increase the width of the causeway from 15 feet to 18 to 25 feet, Coastal Resources staff found.

Heavy rains and high tides in July washed some of the debris into the marsh.

Reed notes in his letter that the owners have “shown diligence” in correcting the violations and removed the debris. They also built a retaining wall along the road to reduce erosion.

In September, agency staff found more fill placed at the end of the causeway without a permit. That was a violation, Reed said, but since it didn’t impact the marsh, no further action would be taken.

McKenzie Beach Heirs applied in August for a permit to build a 6-foot-wide walkway 725 feet from where the causeway ends in the marsh to the edge of Clubhouse Creek. A covered pierhead and floating dock, both 128 square feet, are proposed on the creek.

That permit is still under review, said Dan Burger, a spokesman for the agency.

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