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Dredging: Murrells Inlet jumps ahead of Georgetown port

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Dredging of Murrells Inlet has taken priority over dredging of Winyah Bay and the port of Georgetown in the county’s proposal to spend proceeds from an additional penny sales tax.

County Administrator Sel Hemingway said the county and the Army Corps of Engineers are looking at a phased approach to deepening the channel that would save money and attract shipping. Officials are exploring benefits of dredging the port to a depth less than 27 feet, looking closely at areas to be dredged and investigating alternatives. “Estimated cost of dredging has risen significantly,” a report on county projects presented to members of Georgetown County Council said. Original estimates of $32 million have nearly doubled, according to some reports. The county offered $6 million in local funding in order to attract over $27 million from the ports authority and state and federal governments.

The closing of the steel mill in Georgetown in September will factor into the port dredging equation. “Obviously, the steel mill closing changed the game to some degree, depending on the use of that property,” Hemingway said. “Cargo related to the steel mill was never a deciding factor of whether the project went forward.”

Officials are researching options for Murrells Inlet, estimated at $10.3 million. Completion of environmental assessment and engineering and design work is anticipated by the end of next April. Construction of a spoils site should be completed by the end of next August. Dredging will take place from October 2016 to March 2017.

The method of dewatering the spoils and the volume of material removed have not been determined, Hemingway said. Once those are decided, a community meeting will be scheduled to review the process and identify businesses and individuals wanting to have the finger canals dredged.

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