'We get to get our island back:' Residents rejoice over Pawleys Island beach renourishment
For years, Pawleys Island residents have watched their coastline recede after hurricanes and high tides.
Monday night, Pawleys Island town leaders voted to move forward with a beach renourishment project that many have been clamoring for after years of damaging coastal erosion.
Town administrator Ryan Fabbri said Pawleys Island never got the federal help that so many other Grand Strand beaches have been given for beach renourishment projects.
"After 14 years of not getting any money from the federal government, it was pretty obvious that was never going to happen," Fabbri said.
He said the price of sand right now is incredibly low, and since there has been no indication federal assistance, leaders decided it was the right time to move forward with the project.
"The cost to renourish three miles of beach here is the same cost to do it in Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head, over wherever else it's done," he said.
Pawleys Island is a narrow barrier island, not nearly as densely populated as many other South Carolina beaches. Fabbri said the federal government wants to get the most for its money, and that is why Pawleys Island has been overlooked for federal funding.
"While the cost is the same, the benefit, in their eyes, is far greater somewhere else, because you've got places where there's commercial districts and restaurants and a lot more homes," he said.
Fabbri said this is an ideal time for the town to finally begin its long-awaited beach renourishment after Hurricane Dorian dumped piles upon piles of sand into the streets on the south end of Pawleys Island.
"If we were to choose to do nothing over the next five, 10 years, you can call it speculation, whatever you want to call it, but I have no doubt that we'd lose a few homes. Maybe a new inlet breaches at some point, and then you lost more than just a few homes," Fabbri said.
This displacement of sand is making many on Pawleys Island nervous for their homes and for the island itself.
"Especially these houses on the end, at high tide, the surf laps up under the houses just every day. That's a big problem. When the houses have to worry about the ocean right up to the houses. I mean it's nice being close to the ocean now, but not that close," Bob Lee said.
Lee owns a home in Pawleys Island and is a huge supporter of the beach renourishment project.
"There's no doubt that if we didn't add ground sand to the island, it would definitely be underwater," Lee said.
On Tuesday, surveyors began working to determine exactly how much sand was displaced in Hurricane Dorian. Those results should be out by the end of the week. Regardless, Fabbri said the sand the town plans to pump in should be more than enough to recoup however much was lost.
The $14.4 million project will extend the beach out 140-feet farther and will bring in about 1.1 million cubic yards of sand to the beach. The town is receiving about $5.6 million from the state and is borrowing about $2.8 million to cover the rest of the costs.
Fabbri said this project will help protect the beachfront homes of people like Bob Lee.
"We get to get our island back," Lee said.
While Fabbri said protecting private property is the primary purpose of the project-- it's about more than just that.
"There's more benefits than just protecting million-dollar homes," Fabbri said.
He said the additional beach area will benefit tourists, as well as wildlife, by providing "more area and dunes for turtles to lay eggs."
Workers will begin pumping sand on October 1 from the south end all the way to Pawleys Island Pier. The south end parking lot will be closed for the three-month duration of the project because that will be the staging area for the construction equipment.