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Pawleys Island: As clock ticks, groin permit data still lacking

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Additional information about the impact of a proposed groin in front of the public parking lot on the south end of Pawleys Island was supposed to be submitted to federal regulators last week, according to Ray Funnye, the county’s Public Works director.

But staff at the Corps of Engineers say no information has been received. Georgetown County has a Jan. 26 deadline to complete its application for federal and state permits for the project.

The county applied in 2009 for permits to build a 205-foot-long groin in front of the parking lot to protect it from erosion. It discovered this summer, a year after a public hearing on the project, that the Corps of Engineers and the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management had put the permit request on hold due to lack of information.

The project manager for Coastal Resources, Chris Stout, outlined deficiencies in the permit application in a July 30 letter and gave the county 180 days to provide the missing information.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Natural Resources object to the project, saying it will affect habitat for endangered and threatened plants and animals. They also say there is no evidence that erosion threatens the parking lot.

Fish and Wildlife wants to review the project under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

“That takes about 135 days to complete,” Funnye said.

A spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife said no information has been received from the county.

Applied Technology and Management was due to submit a biological assessment of the project last week, Funnye said.

The county will then ask for an extension of time to complete the consultation, he said.

The letter from Coastal Resources only requires that the county provide the final date for the results of the consultation by the deadline, Fran Way, an engineer at Applied Technology and Management in Charleston, the county’s consultant for the project, said last week. “There has to be progress,” he said.

Way referred additional questions about the project to Funnye, and did not respond to a phone message this week about the missed deadline.

“According to my engineer, it was submitted,” Funnye said, adding that it may still be in the mail.

The county also has to show a financial commitment for removing the groin or mitigating damage caused to adjacent beaches. And it has to provide a plan for future beach nourishment in the area.

Coastal Resources also wants the county to respond to an adjacent property owner who claims the project will cause erosion on his property.

The town of Pawleys Island offered the county $20,000 to help fund the additional work. The county said only $9,000 was needed. The county approved $108,500 for permitting. It estimates building the groin will cost $375,000.

The town supports the groin project because the public access is essential for getting federal funds for beach nourishment on the island’s narrow south end. The Corps of Engineers approved a project several years ago, but it has not received funding from Congress.

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