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Pawleys Island: Town will seek $6.5M from state for beach work

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A $13 million project to place offshore sand on the beach at Pawleys Island can be done without any cost to property owners, according to the head of the town’s beach committee. That estimate hinges on getting $6.5 million of the $30 million that the state allocated for beach repairs this year.

The committee started work this year following storms in 2015 that caused an estimated 100,000 cubic yards of sand to erode from the front dune. It was reviewing options of a long-term beach nourishment program when Hurricane Matthew caused further erosion, estimated at 80,000 cubic yards.

The state legislature put $30 million in the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism budget to match local funds for beach repair projects. Pawleys Island was initially listed for $2.7 million, based on estimates of replacing the sand lost in 2015.

The town is due to apply this week for state and federal permits to pump 900,000 cubic yards of sand from offshore sites onto the beach. Some will wash away, but the goal is to net about 700,000 cubic yards, enough maintain a dry sand beach at high tide for the next 10 years, based on current erosion rates, said Steven Traynum, a project manager for Coastal Science and Engineering. The firm is designing the project.

Two sources of sand were identified by the Army Corps of Engineers for a beach nourishment project approved in 2006, but never funded by Congress. Both are within 3 miles of the island, but Traynum plans to look at additional sites that may offer better quality sand. The longevity of the project will depend on the grain size of the sand as well as the length of beach that’s nourished, he said.

The town has $5 million set aside for beach nourishment. The money comes from the town’s 3 percent accommodations tax. That brings in about $400,000 a year, said Town Council Member Rocky Holliday, who chairs the beach committee.

“We have the potential to fund a project like this without asking any of our homeowners to foot the bill,” he said. “I think it works out pretty well in our favor.”

Once the applications for environmental permits are submitted, the town will apply to PRT for funding. Coastal Science had already done work for the town that enabled it to design the project when state funds became available. Mayor Bill Otis said that should give Pawleys Island an edge over other coastal communities in getting those funds. “That is a critical point,” he said. “I think we’ll be fairly close to the top.”

While offshore sand requires about $2.5 million in mobilization costs for a dredge, it is the most economical source for a large volume of sand, Traynum said. Bringing a comparable volume from an upland site, if it were available, would require 60,000 truck trips.

Pawleys Inlet, the source of sand for emergency dune building after Matthew, doesn’t have enough sand for a large-scale project, he said. Neither does Pawleys Creek.

Although the proposed project would deplete the town’s beach management funds, it would also make the town eligible for federal funds to rebuild the beach in future storms, Holliday said.

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