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Beaches: Lawmakers pledge to help communities rebuild

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Residents of Inlet Point South and the Peninsula at Litchfield are getting an artificial dune from sand scraped off the beach as protection against further erosion this winter.

Other beaches in Georgetown County are in holding patterns for one reason or another.

Through covenants, property owners at Inlet Point South gave their association the obligation to maintain the dunes in the event of an emergency — and the loss of sand along Georgetown County’s beaches is nearing a $13 million price tag. Press Courtney of Waccamaw Management said heavy machinery was on the beach at Inlet Point South scraping sand last week when low tide arrived at mid-day and will resume next week when conditions are favorable again. Inlet Point South has permission to push sand from the low tide line to form a dune 6 feet high and 20 feet wide, Courtney said.

Residents of Inlet Point at Garden City have all the permits they need to scrape sand into dunes, but spokesman Gairy Nichols said they are holding off in the hope that some sand will naturally accrue to the beach. “Scraping is a last resort,” Nichols said. “It is something we may want to do if necessary but we are playing it day by day. So far the nor’easters have been fairly mild.”

Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis told Gov. Nikki Haley in a letter this month that the state is ill prepared to deal with the damage to the beach there, estimated at $2.9 million. “There seems to be no coordination on the state level between our local governments from Kiawah to North Myrtle Beach and the various agencies involved,” he said.

Otis said he sent the letter to Haley, his second in as many months, because “no one in the state is representing the coast with the federal government at this point.”

A representative of FEMA was due to assess the island’s beachfront last month, but that visit was postponed. It’s expected within the next week, Otis said. There was a FEMA visit right after the October storms, but “nobody comes from FEMA that knows about beaches,” he said.

That’s why the state needs to take a greater role, Otis said. “We are not showing very strong advocacy,” he said.

The town is part of a coalition of the state’s coastal communities that lobbies for beachfront issues. Otis hopes it will be able to consolidate individual efforts. “Every community is working with a different lobbyist,” he said.

The town spends $500 a year to be part of the S.C. Beach Advocates. If it’s successful, Otis said he wouldn’t mind seeing the town spent more to get state government to tackle coastal issues.

The county’s Legislative Delegation promised to make beach repair a priority during the annual Legislative Breakfast sponsored by the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce last week.

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