Hilton Head resident questions method to patch shoreline

tbarton@islandpacket.comNovember 30, 2013 

Less than two years after a $9.8 million project to bolster and protect a mile of Hilton Head Island's heel near Port Royal Plantation, another beach renourishment in that area may be around the corner.

The town plans to add up to 35,000 cubic yards of sand to patch a 2,000-foot-long swath of eroding shoreline at Ocean Point in Port Royal Plantation.

Plans are being completed, and the town awaits permits from state and federal regulators to pursue the $1 million job, said Scott Liggett, director of public projects.

Unlike the project completed in Spring 2012, the renourishment is small enough to need only dump trucks to move the sand -- not an offshore dredging pump.

The town plans to truck the sand in from a mine in Hardeeville. That has riled at least one nearby homeowner, upset at the disruption that would be caused by truck traffic going through the quiet residential neighborhood.

The amount of sand to be placed equates to nearly 3,000 truckloads, Liggett said.

"It's idiotic," said Paul Schlosser, whose house sits at the end of Ocean Point. Schlosser said he does not object to the project, but rather the proposed method.

Instead, Schlosser said the town should place wire baskets filled with sandbags or other material along the beach as a temporary solution until the next islandwide beach fill project in late 2015 or early 2016, when the sand could be pumped onto the beach by dredge.

"They could do it for a fraction of the price" with less fuss, Schlosser argues.

State law, though, largely prohibits the placement of seawalls, rock revetments and the like on the beach. The temporary use of sandbags may only be done by emergency order in the event of imminent threat to a structure, not to counteract chronic erosion, said Dan Burger, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Services director of coastal services.

Schlosser also suggested the town take sand that has accumulated offshore to the south of Ocean Point. That sand is partly the product of the town's 2012 renourishing.

Doing so, though, would harm critical habitat for wintering piping plovers, according to the coastal engineering firm the town uses, Olsen Associates. A 2012 study documented a high level of foraging activity by the protected birds in that area the previous two winters, according to Olsen.

Schlosser is also unsure the project is needed ahead of the town's next large-scale renourishment.

If the erosion continues -- at a rate of about 30 feet per year, according to a 2010 survey -- it could damage oceanfront properties, Liggett said, though no homes are in immediate danger.

The shoreline of the island's heel is particularly hard hit by erosion because of currents in the sound. Waiting until 2015 or 2016 could be too risky, Liggett said. Adding the fill would be just enough to buy time until 2016 to stabilize the beach long-term, he said.

"It's not a foregone conclusion the project will happen," Liggett added. "It will be contingent on conditions in the spring and the result of bids, but ... northeasterly winds and high tides have caused the beach to continue to deteriorate this winter."

As part of the $9.8 million renourishment in 2012, which stretched for a mile from The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa to the Beach House in Port Royal Plantation, the town built a 700-foot-long wall of granite boulders to curb erosion. The $1.2 million groin traps sand that would otherwise be swept away.

Liggett said the groin has not affected erosion in the Ocean Point area, which was not an area of concern until two years ago.

If approved by Town Council and state and federal regulators, work would begin in March and last through the end of April to avoid sea turtle nesting, Liggett said.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

Related Content:

Time draws near to bulk up Hilton Head beaches: Sept. 3, 2013


Island plans to patch shoreline near Port Royal; prepares for next round of renourishment: May 11, 2013


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