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Pawleys Island: Town moves ahead with plans to build up beach

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The town of Pawleys Island will move forward with plans for a beach nourishment project that will place enough sand to create what engineers call “a minimum healthy beach.” It hopes to fund that with a portion of the $30 million approved by the legislature this year to repair beach erosion caused by storms last fall.

The state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism has the town on a preliminary list for $2.7 million, Mayor Bill Otis said. He believes the town is it a good position to receive funding because it has already done some engineering work and it has over $5 million on hand earmarked for beach projects. PRT will pay up to half the cost of approved beach nourishment projects.

The Army Corps of Engineers approved an $8.9 million beach nourishment project for the island’s narrow south end in 2006. The project was never funded by Congress.

Unlike the Corps project, the promise of state funds isn’t tied to the availability of public beach access. PRT’s beach nourishment grant notice includes three criteria for public access:

• protects existing or historic public recreation areas;

• improves the public accessibility to the beach;

• provides and enhances full and complete public access.

About 1.7 miles in the middle of the 3.5-mile-long island has no public access. A 1999 beach nourishment project included the middle of the island, but was partly funded by private donations. The town doesn’t envision breaking its next beach nourishment project into public and private segments, Otis said. “It wouldn’t be our intent to limit the scope of the project,” he added.

The 1999 project placed 250,000 cubic yards of sand from the south end spit along 2.5 miles of beach at a cost of $1.3 million. The 2006 Corps project proposed placing 666,400 cubic yards along 1.3 miles of beach.

An estimate from Coastal Science and Engineering, the same firm that worked on the 1999 project, found Pawleys Island needs 600,000 to 750,000 cubic yards of sand on the southern half of the island to create a “healthy beach condition.” To get that, it would need to place 900,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach to allow for loss of some material.

A beach committee led by Council Member Rocky Holliday met this week to review the options for a renourishment project using the state funds. It voted to recommend the town move forward with the engineering work needed to apply for state and federal permits. Those permit applications must be filed before the town can apply for state funding.

Along with recreation, PRT will rate funding requests on environmental impacts, the expected life of the project, the protection of property and the impact of tourism. “We think we have a great opportunity to get access to these funds,” Holliday said.

He proposed that Coastal Science move forward with the application process. Steven Traynum, a project manager with the firm, told the beach committee it could have an application ready by the end of November.

The scale of the project will determine the method used. Otis pointed out that the Corps project has already identified offshore sources of sand that could be dredged to nourish the island’s beach.

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