Town gets options for repairs to north end jetty – Coastal Observer


Town gets options for repairs to north end jetty

Barnacles cover the original wood and the rock added to the jetty over the years.

Worn timbers cling to the southern edge of the inlet between Pawleys Island and Litchfield Beach like gnarled fingers. More than seven decades of daily tides, seasonal storms and landmark hurricanes have tried to pry them loose. They are held in place by habit as well as rock, concrete and pieces of construction debris added over the years.

The island’s north end jetty needs some repair, but isn’t in danger of failing, as some property owners fear, according to a report commissioned by the town of Pawleys Island. It can repair the structure for a little over $100,000 or make further improvements for about $275,000.

A more significant renovation would cost at least $1.25 million and require major state and federal permits.  Even raising the height of the jetty by 2 feet in order to account for past and future sea level rise could require the town to do an analysis of the downdrift impact and place additional sand on the beach, according to the study by Coastal Science and Engineering. The engineering and permitting could double the cost of the project, it noted.

“We’re not in any dire situation where the groin is at risk of failing, correct,” Mayor Brian Henry asked at a meeting with the engineers this week.

“Overall it’s in OK shape,” said Steven Traynum, president of CSE. “It’s holding up pretty well as long as we can prevent the channel from getting too deep next to it. A major hurricane might shift some things around.”

Although called a jetty, the structure is more accurately described as a terminal groin, Traynum said.

It was built in the early 1950s by the state highway department, the same period when the agency started work on 23 rock and timber groins on the island. The groins were repaired in 2019 by the town. They were covered by a beach renourishment project completed in 2020.

Concern about the state of the jetty has nagged at property owners for years. In 1995, the town was allowed to place construction debris along the jetty.

But the town doesn’t own the jetty. Town Council made that clear in 2004 when it approved the creation of four oceanfront lots on what was known as the Assey property.

The state of South Carolina has also denied responsibility for the structure. And, because it is located within the federal Coastal Barrier Resources System, no federal funds can be used to maintain it. 

Photos from the 1950s show the inlet was close to its current location before the jetty was built. After Hurricane Hazel in 1954, the creek broke through the south end of Litchfield to create an inlet in front of the Magnolia Beach Club. Over the next 30 years, the inlet migrated south to its current location along the jetty.

The most significant damage to the jetty is in places where the current has scoured sand away from the rocks. That has led to “slumping.”

The simplest repair would add rock and reconfigure some of the existing rock.

“It’s a simple permit to get,” Traynum said. “It’s a pretty simple process.”

He also recommended that the town raise the height of the jetty. Since it was built, sea level has risen by a foot. Half of that increase was recorded in the last 15 years, he noted. Adding 2 feet would anticipate the rise expected through 2050.

The extra height would be achieved with stone and concrete or with a concrete cap, Traynum said. 

“It does provide a neat looking structure,” he said of the cap

But if the purpose of the jetty is to stabilize the inlet, “the height of that structure is less of an issue,” Council Member Rocky Holliday said. What counts is its strength.

The beach on the south side of the jetty is starting to erode past the end of the structure. Extra height would help keep the water from flowing over the top of the jetty during storms.

“That’s probably going to get worse over time,” Traynum said. “Doing maintenance will keep it from getting in worse shape.

It still needs to be determined whether the existing structure will handle the weight of addition  material, he added.

The town wants to include work on the jetty in its list of projects for a proposed 1-cent capital projects sales tax that Georgetown County plans to bring before voters in a November referendum.

“Even though we feel like the jetty is holding on, it’s good to plan ahead and get some action towards it,” Henry said.



Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to   , .