061517 Beaches: State budget adds $5 million for storm repairs
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Pawleys Island is one community seeking a share of state funds.

Beaches: State budget adds $5 million for storm repairs

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

When it comes to rebuilding storm-damaged beaches, $5 million won’t go very far. But the money included in this year’s state budget to supplement $30 million allocated for repairs after Hurricane Joaquin in 2015 has raised hopes among local officials that the state will provide consistent funding to maintain the beaches.

“We’re inching toward a dedicated funding source,” state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch said.

The town of Pawleys Island is among the communities seeking a share of the $30 million approved after the 2015 storm. It has been planning a beach nourishment project for years, but a Corps of Engineers project never received funding from Congress. It has applied for $6.2 million of the $30 million through a grant from the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

“There should be plenty of money” for the town, Goldfinch said. He talked with PRT about the application and said “they didn’t express any concern.”

Although this year’s budget initially contained more than $5 million, additional federal funds became available for a beach renourishment project in Myrtle Beach, Goldfinch said. “Five million was a reasonable amount to put in.”

But state Rep. Lee Hewitt noted, “$5 million isn’t going to go very far. Instead of it being a random amount every year, we need to find a permanent avenue for beach nourishment.”

The situation is familiar, Goldfinch said. “I hate to use this analogy, but we’re funding beaches the way we funded roads for a long time.”

Gov. Henry McMaster said on a recent stop in Georgetown County that beach nourishment should be funded statewide rather than exclusively from local communities since the entire state benefits from tourism spending.

Finding a dedicated funding source is the next step, Goldfinch said. “We’re piecing it together. We can’t continue to operate that way. There is no continuity or certainty for coastal communities.”

The beaches could also benefit from other projects that don’t involve moving large quantities of sand, said Nicole Elko, a geologist helping Georgetown County update its beachfront management plan. Once the plan is complete, the county would be eligible to apply for state funds for dune restoration projects using sand fences and vegetation. “I’m pretty sure that would be available for a state cost share,” she said.

Elko is also executive director of S.C. Beach Advocates, a coalition of coastal communities that have lobbied for state funding for beach nourishment. Elko told a County Council committee last week the advocacy group believes the state is close to providing regular funding.

She said this week that “$35 million sounds like a lot, but once you start adding up all these expensive projects, it won’t go far.”

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