041218 Pawleys Island: Town beach work will start in the fall
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Three major storms have hit the island since the groin repair survey was done in 2014.

Pawleys Island: Town beach work will start in the fall

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

It will be all play and no work on the beach at Pawleys Island this summer. Plans to repair the 23 rock and timber groins along the shoreline will wait until after Labor Day.

That will still leave plenty of time for the work to be completed before the town embarks on a project to place up to 725,000 cubic yards of offshore sand along 2.7 miles of beach. The final permit for that project was approved by the Army Corps of Engineers last month. The town will now seek bids for the work.

“We hope to do it in November,” Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri said. That is the earliest work can start under the permit conditions. Work has to be completed by April 30.

The work on the groins was first identified in a 2014 study. Hurricanes in the next three years only added to the damage to the structures that are built perpendicular to the beach in order to trap sand that moves in the current running parallel to the shore. It is estimated to cost $250,000, which will be paid for from a portion of the town’s reserve earmarked for beach management.

The town had planned to do the work this spring, but with work beginning on a new Town Hall, an underground utility project wrapping up and a push to get the beach nourishment permits, Fabbri said he didn’t have time to get bids on the groin work. “It didn’t make any sense to do it while the tourists are here,” he said.

Most of the groins are in portions of the island that have no public access from the street. Contractors will either have to move equipment down the beach or seek access from adjacent property owners, which is likely to be the preferred option, Fabbri said.

The beach nourishment project is estimated to cost $11.8 million, but the town has seen prices vary for other projects on the state’s coast. The only way the town can know for certain is to get bids. Firms will be asked to bid the work with a Nov. 1 start date and with a schedule that would give the town the best price, Fabbri said.

Once the costs are in hand, the town will hold a meeting with property owners to get input on the project and its long-term financing. The town intends to pay for the work through its beach management fund, a state grant and a bank loan. Once completed, the town would be eligible for federal funds to restore the beach if it is damaged in a declared disaster. But it would also have to maintain the “engineered beach.” That could require a tax or an assessment, something the town has never had.

Town Council drew criticism from two property owners this week who say there isn’t enough input in the process or other aspects of town operations. Henry Thomas, who served on the beach committee, said the council needs to hold hearings on the renourishment project. Emilie Carey, his wife, said the promised communication between council and property owners never happened.

“Look who’s here,” Carey said pointing to empty seats in the Pawleys Island Chapel. “Nobody. This is just ridiculous.”

Both complained about the lack of response to questions posed during the council’s public comment period. They left afterward.

“Usually, I don’t respond to what they say,” Fabbri said, but he repeated that he has always planned to provide information about the beach nourishment project once bids are received. Without a firm cost, there is nothing to discuss, he said.

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