102016 News for Pawleys Island, Litchfield and Murrells Inlet
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Murrells Inlet: Dredging will raise beach by 9 feet

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

There will not be a minute to spare once dredging begins in Murrells Inlet next month.

Project managers said the two phases of the $9.3 million job will require around-the-clock, seven-day-a-week effort to complete the work by the deadline of March 31.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will oversee the deepening of the inlet’s entrance channel, inner shoals and the depositional basin at a cost of $6.3 million. Plans call for 438,000 cubic yards of dredge material — it will be 78 percent sand — to be placed on a two-mile stretch of eroded Garden City Beach and another 105,000 cubic yards on Huntington Beach State Park. Wes Wilson, project manager for the Corps of Engineers, said the sand would raise Garden City Beach by 9 feet on the south end and taper off slightly at the project’s northern boundary of 1366 S. Waccamaw Dr., the point where it will meet a shoreline renourishment project planned by Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and Garden City Beach.

The second phase of inlet dredging will involve deepening the creeks near the Marsh Walk, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources boat landing, Marlin Quay Marina and Marina Colony Boat Club. GEL Engineering will oversee that phase of the project for Georgetown County. The estimated cost will be more than $3 million to remove about 45,000 cubic yards of material, press out the water mechanically and truck the dry sludge to a landfill.

The money, with the exception of costs covered by seven of the eight Marsh Walk restaurants with boat slips and the marinas, comes from an additional one-cent capital project sales tax approved by county voters in 2014. Al Hitchcock, representing the Marsh Walk Restaurant Association, said the “carrots” were lined up for voters of every section of the county but dredging was the critical issue for inlet residents.

Wilson said the Corps of Engineers is required to seek the cheapest method of disposing of dredge material, and renourishing the beach at Garden City is a win-win for the county.

 “The timing couldn’t be better,” he said. “We just had a major storm. You are probably the first beach to get sand after a major event and are fortunate to get this opportunity.” He said Garden City Beach is long overdue for more sand. Owners of beachfront houses paid to scrape sand from the beach and rebuild dunes after storms left serious erosion last year.

Wilson said the Corps hired Orion Marine Construction to remove 25,000 cubic yards of sand from the 90-foot Inner Shoal B north of the federal channel and put it on a washed-out section of Huntington Beach State Park. He explained the scale of the job by saying a dump truck can hold 10 cubic yards. “The amount of material we’re taking out of these shoals is pretty massive compared to what you see on the road every day,” he said.

Engineers expect 42,000 cubic yards of sand to be dredged from Inner Channel A. It will go on the south end of Garden City Beach at Inlet Harbor subdivision, along with 95,000 cubic yards from the entrance channel. The remainder of the sand will come from the deposition basin, a sediment trap at the jetties.

Larry Seltzer of GEL Engineering said the dredging on the western edge of Murrells Inlet is more complicated. A cutter head suction dredge will deepen the four main channels to at least 6 feet at mean low tide. The Marsh Walk and DNR landing channels will be at least 5 feet deep, and Marlin Quay Marina will be at least 7 feet, according to the contract.

Hitchcock said the Marsh Walk channels need water, but owners didn’t want to take a chance on undermining their seawalls by cutting too deep. Dredge material near the docks will contain more mud and pollutants than sand. It will be piped to the DNR parking lot, dewatered and hauled away when dry. The water will be screened of sediment and returned to the inlet.

The Wicked Tuna is the only restaurant not participating in the dredging project. Hitchcock said it has pretty deep water except at one set of docks, and the $250,000 estimated cost of dredging was too high for its boat slip rentals to yield a profit.

Sel Hemingway, Georgetown County administrator, said concerns from members of the community were weighed against the cost of the project. Owners of oyster leases wanted dredging to take place only on the outgoing tide to minimize pollution. That would mean a huge increase in cost, Hemingway said. With the contractor working half-days, the job couldn’t be finished in one season.

Noise and odor from the spoils area worry residents. The operation has been moved away from a residential street to the DNR parking lot. The county reached an agreement with Belin United Methodist Church for the use of a field for boat landing parking during the project. Trucks will not run between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. or on Sunday mornings during worship hours.

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