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Environment: Some want to limit inlet dreging impacts, others want to join

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Residents of Murrells Inlet say they want to minimize the impact of a five-month dredging project scheduled to begin this fall, and residents of Garden City say they want the project’s footprint to include their boat docks.

County Administrator Sel Hemingway has not set a date for an informational meeting to address concerns of shellfish contamination, noise and odor from the dredging. He said he was waiting on answers to some of his questions before addressing the public.

Hemingway said pure sand from the deposition basin and the inlet entrance will be used to restore Garden City Beach, which has been hit hard by erosion. Dredge material from an additional shoal in the main channel is still being evaluated by the Army Corps of Engineers for its sand content and suitability for the beach. Renourishment, the cheapest means of dredge material disposal, could begin in September, Hemingway said.

Joe Burroughs, a Conway lawyer and co-owner of a house on South Waccamaw Drive, said his neighbor Dr. Wade Nichols was the “lead man” in getting the Garden City property owners organized. Nichols owns Wahoo’s Restaurant on the Marsh Walk in Murrells Inlet and was familiar with the dredging plans. Homeowners organized under the name “Dredge SW, LLC” and raised $48,000 to hire county consultant GEL Engineering to do a cost analysis and seek permits.

Burroughs said the Garden City group wants its canal along South Waccamaw Drive dredged from Marlin Quay Marina to Atlantic Avenue in Horry County. “We’re pushing to try and get a permit so we can piggyback on the main dredging,” he said. “Once they have the equipment mobilized, it’s going to be a lot cheaper.”

Burroughs said the property owners hope to form a special-purpose tax district to keep the canal dredged, but that will require a vote. “It’s going to be hard because time is running out,” he said. “We might not get it done this winter, but we’re hoping.”

There has also been interest in getting areas at private docks along Main Creek and Parsonage Creek in Murrells Inlet included in the dredging project. Leon Rice, who owns a house on the creek just south of Belin Church, said he didn’t think the property owners would be willing to pay their share like the businesses along the Marsh Walk.

Gary Weinreich, a member of the community group Preserve Murrells Inlet, told Hemingway in a letter that he favors dredging but has concerns. He would like Georgetown County to seek bids for both round-the-clock dredging as proposed as well as dredging only on the outgoing tide so dislodged silt, bacteria and chemicals flow out to sea rather than into creeks and oyster beds. Weinreich said he was concerned about noise and odor at the dewatering site. He suggested the county request bids for work around-the-clock and also during daylight hours only.

Lee Hewitt, unopposed candidate for the state House in District 108 and a member of the inlet’s watershed plan steering committee, said measures could to be taken to keep sediment out of the inlet.

“The county is not addressing the sedimentation of Murrells Inlet,” he said. Yellow sand has washed through pipes under Business 17 into the inlet since Hewitt was a child. “These pipes might have silt traps, but nobody is cleaning them out because they don’t want to claim ownership. The ditches carry stormwater into the inlet. Water is pushing dirt into the creek.”

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