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Pawleys Island: South end owners join groin opponents

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County’s plans to build a rock and concrete groin in front of the south end parking lot on Pawleys Island has drawn objections from one more property owner.

The family that owns the land between the parking lot and Pawleys Inlet told state regulators earlier this year they don’t want the groin built in front of their property. And if state and federal permits are issued for the project, the owners say they won’t let the county or its contractors on their land during construction.

“We’re obviously very concerned about the fact that if you build a groin it traps sand and everything south of it will lose sand,” said Robert Kühne.

He and his wife own the property south of the parking lot, which was in his wife’s family, the Grahams, since the 1960s.

The county wants to build a 205-foot-long groin to protect the public parking lot. The project is opposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Natural Resources, which cite potential harm to threatened and endangered species habitat. Property owners at Prince George, on the south side of Pawleys Inlet, also oppose the groin because they are concerned it could cause erosion on their beachfront.

The Kühnes didn’t file an objection when the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the Army Corps of Engineers sought comments on the project in 2009 because they weren’t notified about the project. The agencies didn’t realize they owned the property, although it shows up in county tax records.

Coastal Resources extended the comment period for the Kühnes in February.

The permit application “makes it very clear that any land (which is our land) downdrift from the proposed groin will be negatively affected by erosion,” Robert Kühne wrote.

If the permit is not denied, he told Coastal Resources, they will not allow construction equipment on their property and won’t allow any sand to be scraped from their property to build up the dunes. He also asked that the county be required to place funds in escrow or post a bond for the cost of restoring any sand that erodes from the beach in front of their property if the groin is permitted. He estimates that at $4 million, based on the cost of a proposed federal beach nourishment project for the south end of Pawleys Island.

“Obviously they can add sand to it if they want to,” Kühne said by phone last week from his home outside Philadelphia.

The groin project has been on hold since January, when the Corps of Engineers received a letter from the county’s consultant withdrawing the permit.

County officials said last month they were unaware that the agency has the permit on the inactive list.

County Administrator Sel Hemingway said the county intends to pursue the permit application. At the moment there are no funds committed for construction, estimated at $375,000, he said.

As for Kühne’s objections, “we’re looking into the legalities of his claim,” he said.

The deed from the Graham Foundation to the Kühnes in 2004 describes the property as running south from the county parking lot to Pawleys Inlet. They paid the foundation $100, and the county lists the market value at $500.

The Kühnes paid $5.61 in property taxes last year, according to county records.

The property has been used by the town of Pawleys Island in past beach nourishment projects, most recently the dredging of shoals in Pawleys Creek in 2007-08 that pumped sand onto the south end.

Kühne said there are no plans to do anything with the property. Construction on the property would require state and federal permits.

“There isn’t much you can do with it,” Kühne said. “They have put so many limitations on it.”

The permitting process would mirror that of the county’s groin project.

“For the time being, we don’t have enough hours in the day,” he said.

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