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Beaches: DeBordieu renews plan for groins with renourishment
By Charles Swenson
There was no sand scraping at DeBordieu following Hurricane Irma in September, but the area’s community association is moving forward with permits for a beach renourishment project because it expects a lengthy challenge to its plan to build three groins to hold the sand.
The DeBordieu Colony Community Association received a state permit in 2011 to build three groins perpendicular to the beach to trap sand that moves in the current. It was part of a renourishment project, which state law requires as a condition of groin construction. The Baruch Foundation, which owns the adjacent property at Hobcaw Barony, and conservation groups appealed the permit, saying the groins would cause erosion at Hobcaw.
Rather than defend the permit, DeBordieu agreed to drop the groins from the project. It completed a project in 2015 that pumped 795,000 cubic yards of offshore sand onto 1.8 miles of beach.
“The community has a long-time goal of protecting the beach and the environment,” said Blanche Brown, general manager of the community association. “We’re trying to get started early so that we’re not limited.”
In March, DeBordieu property owners approved a change in the community association bylaws that created a “Beach Preservation Fund.” An assessment over 17 years will raise just over $1.9 million annually. The measure required a two-thirds majority to pass.
“If you live here, you live here because of the uniqueness of the community,” Brown said. “It’s clearly the beach and access to the creeks and natural environment that makes it unique.”
The assessments range from $9,626 for improved beachfront properties in the area where the groins are proposed to $875 for over 700 properties that are off the beach.
“It shows the community’s long-term commitment,” Brown said.
The permit application submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control says the beach renourishment projects alone are not sustainable. This will be the fifth project since the 1990s.
The groins are needed to hold the sand in front of houses on the south end of the community that are now behind a seawall. “The erosion rate precludes effective beach management along DeBordieu Colony through renourishment alone,” says the application, prepared by Coastal Science and Engineering, the same firm that is working on a beach nourishment project for the town of Pawleys Island.
The project calls for placing 650,000 cubic yards of offshore sand on 1.5 miles of beach. The three groins, between 300 and 400 feet long and 10 feet wide, will follow the beach profile in front of the seawall.
“Sediment transport analysis suggests that nourishment coupled with groins can reduce the long-term erosion rate and maintain a protective dry-sand beach where an existing seawall encroaches severely on the wet-sand beach,” the application states.
It says that a “downdrift impacts analysis” shows that erosion at Hobcaw will be worse if no project is done. While the application acknowledges the groins will trap some sand moving toward Hobcaw, it says the volume of sand placed on the beach will be four times the capacity of the groins.
Amy Armstrong, head of the S.C. Environmental Law Project, said the project “doesn’t look a whole lot different” from the 2011 proposal, although she hadn’t looked at the details of the groins. She represented the Coastal Conservation League and the Sierra Club in appeals of the 2011 permit.
State law allows groin construction if there is no detrimental impact on adjacent beaches. “If it works the way it’s supposed to, it’s going to prevent sand from going to downdrift areas,” Armstrong said.
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