Leaders talk renourishment at North Myrtle Beach forum: 'There's a science behind it'

This photo shows the difference in levels of sand between a renourished beach and an eroded section. (Taggart Houck/WPDE)

Beach renourishment for 2017 is done. But, beach renourishment for 2018 and beyond is a different story.

State, county and city officials met Monday in North Myrtle Beach at a public forum to discuss the future of beach renourishment along the Grand Strand.

The area is coming off its third cycle of renourishment in a 50-year project known as the Grand Strand Renourishment Project. It's been in place since 1997 and it's set to expire in 2047. There isn't anything after that at this point.

Dr. Paul Gayes, a professor at Coastal Carolina University, says he has been closely monitoring beach erosion. He organized the forum Monday and some of his students participated.

He said the process to renourish the beaches is expensive. The most recent project from July to November cost about $26 million.

Gayes says it's important that preventative measures aren't ignored in the future.

"There's risk in everything we do, so it's really important to understand what the risks are, understand what the benefits are and understand what the costs are," said Gayes.

All it takes is one big storm to wash that sand and money away.

"You pump all this sand in and you get one bad storm, half of it's gone and then you get a next bad storm and the other half is gone," said Bruce Lail, a fisherman in in North Myrtle Beach.

Gayes said an important step is to commit to continuing the renourishment, no matter the costs.

Representatives from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the city of North Myrtle Beach, and Horry County spoke about what is coming next. They say renourishment is needed along the rest of the Grand Strand, including Arcadian Shores, north of Myrtle Beach.

There is no word yet on a date when that project will begin. The last time dredging happened along Arcadian Shores was 2008, according to officials at the forum.

Horry County Chairman Mark Lazarus was also at the forum. He said it's important to stay informed and recognize all that goes into protecting our beaches.

"It's neat to hear the science behind all this, too, so it's not just bulldozers and pumping sand. There's a science behind it too," said Lazarus.

Gayes said, at this point, the best solution to combat beach erosion is dredging sand. He said that's also the stance at the state level.

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