Hilton Head prepares to patch shoreline that could threaten oceanfront property

dburley@islandpacket.comMarch 15, 2014 

The Town of Hilton Head Island has found a contractor to patch a small stretch of eroding shoreline that's quickly approaching private property.

But to get the project finished this year, the town will have to act fast.

The town will pay about $1 million to add nearly 30,000 cubic yards of sand to a 2,000-foot-long section of beach at Ocean Point in Port Royal Plantation, town director of public projects Scott Liggett said Friday. Liggett declined to release the name of the contractor because the paperwork has not been completed.

Liggett said the project needs to start by early April to be finished by June 30. After that, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibits the town from disrupting the beach because of sea-turtle nesting season.

The town awaits a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which should come soon, Liggett said.

"I wouldn't want to drift too far" from starting in April, he added.

The town's urgency stems from the water's rapid advance up the shoreline, the result of erosion.

After Liggett and town manager Steve Riley said rising water could reach oceanfront property within two years, Town Council voted this month to authorize Liggett to pursue a solution rather than wait for a larger renourishment project planned for 2016.

The shoreline of the island's heel is hit particularly hard by erosion because of currents in Port Royal Sound. Between 30 and 50 feet of beach separates houses from the water at high tide. The beach washes away at a rate of about 20 feet a year, Liggett said.

"We just need to buy ourselves enough time," Riley said. "Waiting the two years would probably be too late. It's kind of sacrificial."

The town plans to truck in the sand from Hardeeville. That has riled at least one nearby homeowner, upset that truck traffic will rumble through the neighborhood for weeks.

The town asked contractors to estimate how much it would cost to deliver the sand by barge, as a possible alternative, but Riley said it was too expensive.

Unlike a 2012 project, the renourishment is small enough to allow sand to be moved by dump truck and will not require an offshore dredging pump. The amount of sand to be placed, however, equals nearly 3,000 truckloads, Liggett said.

An attempt Friday to reach Paul Schlosser, whose house sits at the end of Ocean Point, was unsuccessful.

In November, Schlosser told The Island Packet he wants the town to place wire baskets filled with sandbags or other material along the beach as a temporary solution until sand can be pumped by dredge in 2015.

State law, though, largely prohibits the placement of seawalls, rock revetments and similar devices on the beach. The temporary use of sandbags may only be done by emergency order, in the event of imminent threat to a structure, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The Port Royal Landowners Association supports the town's plan, according to general manager Lance Pyle.

The $1 million project comes about two years after a $9.8 million project to bolster and protect a mile of beach near Port Royal Plantation.

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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