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Renourishment: County considers 'engineered' beaches

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Wind and rain have taken a toll on Georgetown County’s beaches over the past two years.

Unlike the town of Pawleys Island or private communities, the county has no means of renourishing its beaches without government assistance. Pawleys Island dedicates its local accommodations tax collections to a beach management fund. Private communities can assess members for money to rebuild a beach.

Ray Funnye, county public works director, proposed two ideas to members of Georgetown County Council during a retreat last week. The first was to update the county beach management plan. “Having a plan allows us to apply for state renourishment funds,” Funnye said. His second proposal would begin the process of having the county beaches designated “engineered beaches.” The process is costly and lengthy, Funnye said, but makes the county eligible for FEMA rebuilding funds in case of a major storm.

An “engineered beach” has been rebuilt to specified levels with renourishment and monitored for erosion and accretion by a qualified coastal marine engineering firm. The plan includes comprehensive design drawings and specifications for bids and construction after a major storm.

Funnye said the justification for the cost is the economic impact of beach tourism and protection for real property on the beachfront.

County Administrator Sel Hemingway said that updating the beach management plan was a must. He recommended assigning the topic of the “engineered beach” to the council’s Land Use and Tourism Committee, composed of John Thomas, Steve Goggans and Austin Beard.

“One benefit of the latest natural disaster is that coastal counties and municipalities are coming together and making the case that beaches are important to all counties,” Hemingway said. “It’s not just the coastal counties’ responsibility. It needs a state funding mechanism.”

Pawleys Island, which submitted a permit application this week for beach nourishment, expects to spend $13 million on the project. It has $5.5 million on hand and proposes to borrow up to $2 million. The town will seek $6.2 million from money approved by the state for beach repairs.

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