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Pawleys Island: Groins have uncertain place in beach plan

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The structures that hold sand on the beach along much of Pawleys Island could also hold up plans for a beach nourishment project, town officials say. Town Council voted this week to move ahead with engineering for the project, but it won’t include the 24 rock and timber groins along the beach from Pawleys Pier to the south end of the island.

Groins are built perpendicular to the beach and trap sand that moves in the current that flows parallel to the beach. Those on Pawleys Island were built from the late 1940s through the early 1960s and last overhauled as part of a beach nourishment project in 1999.

The groins need repair, according to a 2014 survey by Coastal Science and Engineering, the firm that designed the 1999 project. The survey also proposed lengthening 11 of the groins at the south end to trap more sand. Unlike the original groins, current designs follow the contour of the beach, according to Steven Traynum, a project manager for Coastal Science. “But the biggest thing is that you actually have to add sand,” he told the town’s beach committee earlier this month.

The town hopes its beach nourishment project will get a portion of the $30 million included in this year’s state budget to repair damage caused by storms in October 2015. In order to apply for funding through the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, the town needs to apply for state and federal permits for beach nourishment.

Town Council accepted a recommendation from the town beach committee to more forward with the permitting and

approved $146,000 for Coastal Science to do the work. But that doesn’t include work on the island’s groins.

Adding groin work to the beach nourishment project would increase the cost by $2 million to $3 million and raise the potential for challenges to the permits, Mayor Bill Otis said. An appeal by environmental groups of Georgetown County’s permit to build a new groin in front of the public parking lot on the south end is entering its fourth year with no ruling from the Administrative Law Court judge who heard the case.

“Matching state funds are necessary for our project to be successful,” Otis said, adding that there is no guarantee how long the funds will be available. “The first thing we need to do is get the application to PRT, which will include just beach renourishment.”

Coastal Science estimates it will cost $12 million to $14 million to add about 850,000 cubic yards of sand to the island and repair and extend the groins. The town has about $5 million to match state funding dollar for dollar. Otis said the town needs to develop a project to meet its needs and seek permits. The work can always be scaled back to meet the budget. “You can never go higher than permitted, but you can go lower,” Otis said.

Before the 2015 storms altered the town’s beach plans, Otis was told by staff at the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management that repairs that didn’t alter the size or shape of the groins would be permitted. It’s possible the town could seek a permit to repair the groins after the beach nourishment project is approved. Staff at Coastal Science said that work could be done after new sand is placed on the beach, Otis said.

The town beach committee is due to continue discussion of the groin work along with funding options.

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