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Beaches: Lack of sand, not erosion, is concern for Pawleys

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The good news is that erosion on Pawleys Island averages less than 2 feet a year. The bad news is that there wasn’t much sand to begin with.

That message from a coastal engineer prompted the town’s beach committee to recommend last week that Town Council move forward with plans for a beach nourishment project.

“Even in the worst areas, it’s still a relatively minor erosion rate,” said Steven Traynum, a project manager with Coastal Science and Engineering.

Town Council is due to meet Friday to vote on the committee recommendation. The town hopes to use a portion of $30 million the state has approved for beach nourishment projects. It can match about $5 million.

Traynum said the island needs about 900,000 cubic yards of new sand, mostly on the south end where “there wasn’t much sand to begin with.” At $10 per cubic yard and another $2 million to $3 million to mobilize an offshore dredge, the town is looking at an $11 million to $12 million project, he said.

Some of that new sand will wash away from the beach, but the goal is to leave about 650,000 cubic yards in place. Traynum said that would stabilize the beach for at least 10 years. “The idea is you don’t ever want it to get back to the way it was,” he told the committee. “How long it lasts depends on how much sand you add.”

Coastal Science has already produced studies of existing conditions on the beach that will be used to seek state and federal permits.

An area of beach centered roughly on Pawleys Pier has what Traynum called the ideal beach profile. “We consider that to have an adequate beach,” he said. Much of that area has rock and concrete groins that trap sand. Traynum said those groins need to be altered, but getting permits for the work could delay a project.

Groin work is likely to draw more attention than beach nourishment, Mayor Bill Otis said.

“We may be looking at this in phases,” Council Member Rocky Holliday, who chairs the beach committee, said. The town could create a project using the state money as a match, then develop a long-term beach nourishment project, he said.

Funding is the committee’s next topic for discussion.

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