Coastal communities work to fix what Mother Nature destroyed

Crews in Pawleys Island are taking sand during low tide and pushing it up towards the homes, creating dunes to protect the homes (Liz Cooper/WPDE)

Work continues along the South Carolina beaches to renourish what Mother Nature has wash away.

Beach renourishment typically happens every eight to 10 years and some coastal communities are long overdue after multiple storms barreled across the beaches the last few years.

The Myrtle Beach Shore Protection Project is broken down into three categories--Reach 1, 2 and 3.

Reach 1 is North Myrtle Beach, Reach 2 is Myrtle Beach, and Reach 3 is Surfside Beach and Garden City Beach.

Georgetown County officials are clearing debris left behind after Hurricane Irma last week, in preparation for beach renourishment, which is scheduled to start next week.

"We're estimating maybe a foot and a half of sand lost in portions, maybe two feet, three even in some of the extreme cases," said Art Baker, Georgetown County director of public services, about the destruction from Irma.

On Friday, there was already a large pipe and large boats for crews working on the renourishment just north of Garden City Pier.

"We ask for people to just be patient," said Baker. He said renourishment should take about two weeks in Garden City.

As crews replenish the beach in Garden City, just down the road on Pawleys Island, town officials are scrapping sand to rebuild dunes. Crews are taking sand during low tide and pushing it up towards the homes, creating dunes.

Ryan Fabbri, the town administrator says Irma washed away nearly all the dunes along Pawleys Island, leaving homes vulnerable to flooding.

"Where it hasn't washed it away completely, it is significantly eroded the beach on the north and middle of the island," explained Fabbri.

Fabbri says this is the third year in a row the town has done scrapping as a temporary fix to replace during after storms washed them away.

He says FEMA has helped the town with some of those costs. The first year cost about $120,000 and FEMA reimbursed the town 100-percent. Last year, he says it cost about $320,000 and FEMA reimbursed the town 75-percent.

He says he's not sure how much the scrapping is going to cost because they're billed hourly and not exactly sure how long the work will take. He says they don't know if FEMA will help fund the project at this point either.

"It's an emergency protective measure, so we just do what we have to do.," said Fabbri. "We have to do it because it needs to be done."

Fabbri says they are working on a long-term solution. The town is in the process of completing permits to do a beach renourishment, similar to Reach 1, 2, and 3 happening up the road.

The project is estimated to cost about $15 million. Fabbri says the town has about $5 million strictly for beach renourishment and maintenance projects. They're also tapping into state grants to help fund the project.

"We have about 12 million of it. So, we are going to fall about $2 or $3 million short," said Fabbri. "That's what we are going to be talking about over the next month or so to figure out what we want to do; whether we want to find another source of revenue to get it done or scale the project back a little bit."

Fabbri says unlike the beach renourishment happening now along the coastal communities, the town wouldn't have the Army Corps of Engineers doing the work. He says they would use their current contractor and another dredging company to do the work. He says they didn't get funding from the Army Corps.

"If we don't do any renourishment, ultimately we will cease to have a beach and if we don't have a beach we don't really have much of a town," said Fabbri. "There is nothing more important than beach renourishment."

He hopes beach renourishment will begin on Pawleys Island in Spring 2018.

As for the scrapping work along the beach now, he says that could take about three weeks, but because crews have to wait for the tide to come in and out to get the work done, that time could vary.

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