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Pawleys Island: Town offers county $20K to complete groin permit

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The town of Pawleys Island will give Georgetown County $20,000 to help the county complete its application for state and federal permits to build a groin in front of the island’s south end parking lot. The decision this week followed a meeting between Mayor Bill Otis and county officials.

“They don’t have the money budgeted to do the work” to get the permit, Otis told Town Council.

The county has until the end of January to complete the process.

The county applied in 2009 for permits to build a 205-foot-long rock and concrete groin about 300 feet south of the last of the 23 existing groins on the island. The groin is needed to protect the parking lot, the county says. State law allows construction of new groins to protect public facilities.

The project has drawn objections from the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who say it will damage habitat that supports threatened and endangered plants and animals. Property owners at Prince George, which is on the south side of Pawleys Inlet, say the groin will increase beach erosion.

The town of Pawleys Island supports the project because maintaining public access is crucial to getting federal and state funds for a beach nourishment project developed by the Corps of Engineers for the south end.

“All the engineers that have evaluated the issues down there say that groin is important to protecting the parking lot,” Otis said. “We have a dog in this fight.”

The county learned in July that its permit application was listed as “inactive” by both the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Corps of Engineers. A July 30 letter from the project manager for the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management listed five deficiencies with the application.

The key step, regulators say, is a consultation with Fish and Wildlife about the impact on endangered species. “That can take a good amount of time,” said Tommy Fennel, a project manager at the Corps office in Conway. “Once that’s in, they will send that to us.”

The Corps still lists the permit as inactive.

The consultation hasn’t been started, said Jennifer Koches, a spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife.

The county has spent about $90,000 on the permit application, and Otis said he was told it would cost another $20,000 to complete the process. “I think they’ve got to go forward,” he said.

The county hasn’t budgeted the $375,000 estimated cost to build the groin. Otis said he believes the county can get grant funds, and noted that the permit will be good for five years.

In approving funds for the permit, the town stressed it isn’t committing money for groin construction.

And Otis noted there is no guarantee the permits will be approved. He said he would work with the county “to be sure the town’s money is used wisely and responsibly.”

In addition to moving the permit forward, the town sees other benefits from helping out the county.

“People who don’t live on the island think we’re averse to day trippers,” Council Member Glennie Tarbox said. “The south end is just for day visitors.”

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