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The dredge at work between the jetties in the Murrells Inlet entrance channel.
Tanya Ackerman/Coastal Observer

Beaches: Sand flows from inlet channel onto Garden City

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The dredging contractor for the Army Corps of Engineers says high quality sand is going on Garden City Beach and the project to clear Murrells Inlet’s federal channel should be completed by Feb. 16.

Ray Funnye, Georgetown County public works director, says 585,000 cubic yards of sand will be pumped from the inlet’s main channel. An additional 48,000 cubic yards, originally slated for Huntington Beach State Park, will be diverted to Garden City Beach. Hurricane Matthew left further erosion on Garden City Beach after the initial dredging design was completed. The additional sand will be pumped on the beach, and the county will contract with heavy equipment operators to spread it in a trough between the designed edge and the eroded area left by the hurricane.

Gairy Nichols of Dunes Realty in Garden City is the coordinator between the dredging company, the county and Inlet Pointe property owners. “We are thrilled with the amount of sand they are putting on the beach,” he said. “There is so much sand clogging the throat of Murrells Inlet they are now taking sand further north, renourishing the beach a mile past Inlet Harbor to 1366 S. Waccamaw Dr.”

That is the point where a joint renourishing project between Horry and Georgetown counties will connect to the spoils sand and restore the beach profile to a standard set by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The budget for the main channel dredging is $6.8 million, and the county paid the Corps of Engineers in advance, as it was required. “There have been no major problems to date,” Funnye said.

Ordinarily, a private community like Inlet Pointe would not get government funding for rebuilding its beach. “Ironically,” said County Administrator Sel Hemingway, when you dredge Murrells Inlet the disposal site for the sand is Garden City Beach. To them it’s a disposal site.”

Nichols said the dredging project is a win-win for Garden City Beach. “We are so fortunate,” he said. “The issue today about dredging is where do you put the spoils. The easiest and least expensive place to put that sand is right back on the beach, saving everybody a dollar by not having to ship it back in the ocean or to the western side of the county.”

The Murrells Inlet dredging project has two components. The county and three private partners — the Marsh Walk restaurants, Marlin Quay Marina and Marina Colony Boat Club — are paying $3.5 million to dredge the Marsh Walk channel, the public boat landing and the four finger channels. The county’s portion is $1.5 million.

Gator Dredging is the contractor. Dried sediment is being trucked to a permitted mine in Socastee. The deadline for completion is March 30.

Gator Dredging reported a spill of hydraulic fluid on Jan. 25 to the Coast Guard and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, said the county’s engineer at the site, Larry Setzler.

He did not have an estimate of how much fluid leaked into the inlet but described it as a thin sheen on the surface of the water. “Once they had the release,” Setzler said, “they stopped the problem, put out boom and used absorbent pads on the dredge and, of course, made all the contacts they were supposed to.”

Setzler said the dredge uses a type of marine hydraulic fluid that is less harmful to the environment. He said there was no damage to oyster beds or marsh. “Everything,” he said, “was cleared by the Coast Guard to go back to work.”

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