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Pawleys Island: County seeks permit for south end groin

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County has applied for federal and state permits to build a 205-foot-long rock groin on the south end of Pawleys Island.

The goal of the project is to protect the beach in front of the county-owned parking lot, according to the application.

Groins are built perpendicular to the beach in order to capture sand moving in the current that runs parallel to the beach. There are already 23 groins on Pawleys Island south of Pawleys Pier.

The proposed groin would be built at the end of the parking area. Upland sand would be placed north of the groin to create a 30-foot-wide dry beach at high tide.

The state Beachfront Management Act allows construction of new groins on beaches with high erosion rates when that erosion threatens public parks. But construction must be part of an on-going beach nourishment project.

The town of Pawleys Island renourished the south end last year with sand dredged from Pawleys Creek. A larger, federally-funded project is planned for that portion of the island.

“The groin would help trap some of the sand moving south,” Mayor Bill Otis said. “It would assist in doing the renourishment for that part of the beach.”

A terminal groin on the south end was first proposed as part of a state-funded renourishment project in the 1990s. It was considered as part of a project designed by the Corps of Engineers, Otis said, but left out because the south end is part of the federal Coastal Barrier Resources System, and no federal money can be used for improvements.

But the county will have to show the Corps of Engineers and state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management that the proposed groin won’t impact the beach below Pawleys Inlet by interrupting the transport of sand in the current.

“If the groin works the way it’s supposed to and traps sand, it’s going to deprive the beach at Prince George,” said Amy Armstrong, staff attorney with the S.C. Environmental Law Project.

She expects to file comments on the project on behalf of envrionmental groups.

DeBordieu Colony Community Association applied last year for permits to built three groins on the beach at the south end of the development. It drew objections from the Baruch Foundation, which owns Hobcaw Barony, and environmental groups concerned about the impact on Hobcaw and the North Inlet estuary.

The project is now on hold, said Dan Burger, spokesman for Coastal Resources.

Before the town’s renourishment project last year, the county trucked in sand to rebuild the dunes in front of the parking area after it was eroded by winter storms in 2007. The south end of Pawleys Island is the largest free beach access in Georgetown County.

“It is apparent from visual observations that the dune in the public parking area has been chronically eroded for the past few years,” according to the State of the Beaches issued last year by the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

It calls Pawleys Island “stable,” but estimates the actual erosion rate at just under 2 feet a year.

The area of DeBordieu beach proposed for groins has an erosion rate of 8 to 12 feet a year, according to agency figures.

Coastal Resources and the Corps of Engineers will take written comments on the project through May 17 at 927 Shine Ave., Myrtle Beach, 29577.

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