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Pawleys Island: Town hires engineers to design ideal beach profile

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Engineers will start collecting data this summer about the condition of the beachfront along Pawleys Island as the town prepares to take a more active role in managing that beach.

After storms last October cut back the front dune, the town discovered it wasn’t eligible for federal disaster relief because it didn’t have an “engineered beach.” It got state and federal emergency permits to scrape sand from the beach to rebuild the dune, but hasn’t heard whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover that cost, Mayor Bill Otis said.

Town Council agreed this week to hire Coastal Science and Engineering of Columbia to start a beachfront monitoring project and to design what Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri called “the ideal beach profile.”

Coastal Science will also work with a 12-member beach committee the town is creating to set goals for beachfront management. The Army Corps of Engineers approved a $8.9 million plan to add sand to the island’s south end in 2007. The project was never funded by Congress. It was due to come off the list of projects for the corps’ Charleston District, but the town asked that the plan be reviewed and reauthorized.

In a 2014 survey, Coastal Science estimated the town needs to add 350,000 cubic yards of sand to have a healthy beach. The October storms took an estimated 101,000 cubic yard from the dunes.

Monitoring “makes sense if you invest millions into a beach renourishment project,” Fabbri said. It is a requirement for FEMA reimbursement following a disaster.

The cost is $34,433 a year, but Otis said he believes that can be reduced if the work is limited to data collection rather than preparing a detailed report. “If we don’t get fancy,” he said. Town Council agreed to fund a year of monitoring.

“It’s important to establish our baseline,” Council Member Mike Adams said, particularly after the winter beach scraping.

Creating a beach profile will cost $13,036. It will then be up to the beach committee, which is due to start meeting next month, to garner support for a beach nourishment project.

The 2007 Corps of Engineers project was limited to the south end in part because that is the area where there is public beach access. Past beach projects that reached the middle of the island relied on private funding.

In one measure of the town’s sand deficit, the council decided this week not to fund a project to erect sand fencing along the newly-formed front dunes. There isn’t enough sand available to trap, according to Coastal Science and Engineering.

The town will pay half the cost, up to $200 a lot, for owners who want to erect fence to capture blowing sand. “Extensive sand fencing should not be done on dunes unless there is an adequate dry sand beach above the high water line,” Otis said. Coastal Science said only 25 to 30 percent of the island qualifies. “Basically on the north end,” Otis said.

The town will only fund fence that’s within 2 feet of the crest of the dune. “Anywhere else but there is just throwing money away,” Otis said.

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