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DHEC-OCRM Project Review


South Carolina’s coast holds a wealth of historic and archaeological sites.  Coastal historic and archaeological sites reflect the early settlement patterns, land use, and foodways of Native Americans, contain the earliest European settlements of the state, and show the development of South Carolina across the centuries. Historic and archaeological sites ranging from shell rings to rice fields, plantations to early towns and cities, and industrial development to cultural landscapes document the history of the state and our vital coastal region.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History coordinates the state’s historic preservation program. One of the SHPO’s responsibilities is advising the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (DHEC-OCRM) about the potential impact of development on historic and archaeological sites in the State’s eight county coastal zone (Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, and Jasper).

The South Carolina Coastal Program Document (Program Document) and the associated excerpt entitled Policies and Procedures of the South Carolina Coastal Management Program, updated July 1995, (Program Excerpt) contain the specific goals, objectives and policies necessary for DHEC-OCRM staff review of development activities taking place in the eight coastal counties. The referenced documents also contain the basic procedures involved in the management of specific coastal resources, such as endangered species and archaeological and historical resources.

The Program Document identifies two levels of management with respect to archeological and historic resources:  (1) Geographic Areas of Particular Concern (GAPCs) and (2) sites determined significant by the SC Institute of Archeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) or the SC Department of Archives and History (SCDAH).  Specific GAPCs with respect to archeological and historic sites are identified in the Program Document and GAPCs are, in general, sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). As sites are listed on the NRHP, they are automatically designated GAPCs. Significant sites include those sites that meet the criteria for listing on the NRHP for the purposes of South Carolina’s Coastal Management Program.

Role of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)

The SHPO advises DHEC-OCRM on the National Register eligibility status of historic and archaeological sites and the presence of significant sites within a project area. The SHPO also advises DHEC-OCRM on potential impacts that the project may have on the historical or cultural values of the GAPC or significant site and treatment options necessary as a result of proposed development impacts, as appropriate. The SHPO’s role in project review is advisory and consultative, rather than regulatory. DHEC-OCRM considers the SHPO’s comments in making its permitting and certification decisions.

Applicants should contact the SHPO no less than 60 days prior to making a permit application to DHEC-OCRM. The SHPO will review and comment on projects within 30 days of receipt of all required information.

Initiating Review with the SHPO

Complete the DHEC-OCRM Project Review Form (PDF). The following provides instructions for completion of the form:

Required attachments to the Project Review Form include:

  • A subscriber-level map downloaded and printed from ArchSite
    :  There is a fee to access ArchSite remotely; free access to ArchSite is provided at the
    SCIAA offices and in the Research Room at the SC Archives and History Center in Columbia.
  • Identification and description of any historic and archaeological sites in the project boundaries
    Note:  If a search of the ArchSite database indicates that previously identified historic properties are present, then the following additional sources of information will need to be reviewed, as appropriate:

  • Archaeological Site Files at SCIAA
  • National Register of Historic Places records at SHPO
  • Statewide Survey of Historic Properties records at SHPO 

  • A site plan showing the areas of proposed ground disturbance
  • Photographs of the project area, including photographs of any existing structures 
  • Results of a Historic and Archaeological Properties Survey (HAPS) (PDF),
    if your project has at least one of the following:

  • Project area is 30 acres or more
  • Identified archaeological or historic sites are within the project area
  • Identified archaeological or historic sites are within a 0.25-mile radius from the project area
  • Projects with Geographic Areas of Particular Concern (GAPCs)

    Sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places are GAPCs as described in the Program Document. If the project is located within a GAPC (i.e. in downtown Charleston) or has a GAPC within the project area, submit the following information:

  • A list of qualities for which the property was listed in the National Register (nominations can be found at
  • A statement describing how the project will address the priority of uses for the GAPC 
  • GAPCs receive special management consideration. As stated in the Program Excerpt, “when a site overlaps with, is adjacent to, or significantly affects a GAPC, [DHEC-OCRM] will carefully evaluate the project based on the criteria listed as the priority of uses which specifically address each type of GAPC.” The following priorities of uses are evaluated for archaeological and historic sites, beginning with the highest priority use:

    (1)     Uses which preserve the historical or cultural values for which the site    was placed on the National Register.
    (2)     Educational opportunities for the public regarding the historical, archaeological or cultural significance of the site as long as the site is not disturbed. 

    Projects with Significant Sites

    The SHPO considers sites that meet the criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places to be significant for the purpose of this program. South Carolina’s coast is exceptionally important in history, and the coast has not undergone a comprehensive survey to identify all significant sites. Any cultural resources surveys or Historical and Archaeological Properties Survey (HAPS) that identify archaeological or historic sites in the coastal area must provide the SHPO with enough information to make this determination of significance. 

    The coastal policies related to significant sites, which are considered during project review, are located in the “Guidelines for Evaluation of All Projects (PDF).” This section contains specific considerations related to archaeological sites in part 1.9)iii). The Program Document states “in review and certification of permit applications in the coastal zone, the [Department] will be guided by the following general considerations:…9) the extent and significance of impact on the following aspects of quality or quantity of these valuable coastal resources…iii) historic or archaeological resources—irretrievable loss of sites identified as significant by the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology or the S.C. Department of Archives and History without reasonable opportunity for professional examination and/or excavation, or preservation.”

    If a significant site is located within the project area, submit the following information: 

    • A statement describing if the project will cause an irretrievable loss of the site. An irretrievable loss of significant sites can include, but is not limited to:

    • Physical destruction or damage to all or part of the property,
    • Alteration of a property that destroys the archaeological or historic significance,
    • Removal of a property from its historic location,
    • Changes to the setting of a historic property, and
    • Introduction of visual elements

    • A statement describing how the project will allow for a reasonable opportunity for professional examination and/or excavation, or preservation

    • Professional
      :  Professional examination and/or excavation, or preservation must be conducted by individuals that meet the Secretary of the Interior's Professional Qualifications Standards in archeology, history, architectural history, or historic architecture, as appropriate. For projects located within a Certified Local Government (CLG) review authority, the CLG board of architectural review may be considered as professionals, as long as at least one board member meets the Professional Qualification Standards for the specific subtype necessary.

      Examination and/or Excavation:

      Archeology:  A reasonable opportunity for the examination and/or excavation of a significant archeological site includes the data recovery of the site. Data recovery should be conducted with an acceptable research design approved by the SHPO that answers questions not yet asked, places the significance of the site within the appropriate historic context, and addresses what the public and professionals will learn after the site is excavated.

      Data recovery plans require flexibility, and the SHPO encourages creative and up-to-date research methods. These methods may include representative sampling strategies, remote sensing techniques, and specialized analyses. Plans shall include a detailed description of all proposed field and laboratory methods as well as plans for documentation and curation of artifacts. Data recovery plans should also include arrangements for presenting what has been found and learned to the public, focusing particularly on the community or communities that may have interest in the results.

      Architecture/Above-Ground:  A reasonable opportunity for the examination and/or excavation of a significant above-ground site includes the appropriate documentation of the site. Documentation includes, at a minimum: archival-quality black-and-white photographs (interior and exterior), measured drawings, and a written history that places the significance of the site within the appropriate historic context.

      Alternative Examination:  Alternative examinations for significant archeology or above-ground sites may also be appropriate. Alternative examinations could include: site interpretation, the development of a historic context for a geographic area or type of site, brochure, website, exhibits, or oral history projects.

      Preservation:  A reasonable opportunity for the preservation of a significant site involves the placement of a restrictive covenant on the site. DHEC-OCRM and the SHPO have developed guidance templates for these covenants and copies are available upon request from DHEC-OCRM. The SHPO also encourages property owners to consider the nomination of significant sites to the National Register of Historic Places.

    Results of Review

    Upon receipt of all requested information, the SHPO will respond via letter within 30 days. The SHPO’s letter is intended to be included in the application packet to OCRM. The response will address the following:

  • Presence or absence of GAPCs
  • Presence or absence of significant sites
  • Recommendations for permit conditions, as needed
  • DHEC-OCRM has the final say regarding GAPCs and significant sites on a project area. Based on the information provided in the Project Review Form and its attachments, the SHPO will make recommendations to DHEC-OCRM for permit conditions to address GAPCs and significant sites. SHPO comments will be based on information provided. Permit conditions may include:

  •  Preservation covenant
  •  Archaeological monitoring of construction
  •  Visual buffers
  •  Archaeological data recovery
  •  Architectural documentation
  •  Alternative examination