Millions of cubic yards of sand were scheduled to be pumped onto Hilton Head Island’s beaches starting Tuesday , but last week’s storms in the Northeast have delayed the arrival of equipment needed for the $20.7 million project, according to a town official.
The work, which was to begin this week at South Beach in Sea Pines Resort, will now start March 15, said Scott Liggett, town engineer. That should add two weeks to the schedule for the entire project, which will move from Sea Pines to South Forest Beach and extend past Palmetto Dunes to The Folly. It will then move to the island’s northern heel and to sections along Port Royal Sound near Barker Field.
The town had hoped to complete the 5.5-mile oceanfront section of the beach before Memorial Day, but it is now expecting those areas to be finished the first week of June.
Liggett said Weeks Marine Inc., which won the contract to bulk up about eight miles of the island’s beaches, has been delayed in sending pipes and its dredge to Hilton Head. The pipes, which carry the sand from offshore shoals to the beach, will arrive by rafts from New Jersey to Calibogue Sound, where they will be submerged until used.
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The dredge is headed from Texas to Alabama, where it will be used for a project on Dauphin Island before coming to Hilton Head. An attempt to reach a Weeks Marine spokesman Monday was unsuccessful.
The town sent word late last week about the delay to beachfront resorts and the island’s sea turtle patrol.
The new schedule means work won’t be completed before Easter at Sea Pines, but it should be finished before the RBC Heritage Presented By Boeing golf tournament, which is April 14 to 17.
Once the renourishment begins, work will occur 24 hours a day, on 1,000-foot sections at a time. Those sections will be closed while work occurs, but the rest of the beaches will remain open. Alternate access will be provided for beachgoers.
Steve Birdwell, president of Sea Pines Resort, said the delay would affect the resort’s Spring break groups, but he did not expect much economic impact.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said of the delay. “But the work has to get done.”
Farther north, Jay Wiendl, general manager of Sonesta Resort, was taking the changes in stride and was glad that his resort’s section of the renourishment would be finished before Memorial Day. The section from South Forest Beach to Palmetto Dunes is scheduled for early April to early May.
“This is going to impact our business,” he said of the renourishment. “But certainly not having enough beach would be more of an impact.”
He noted that storms last fall had brought heavy erosion. “We need to get sand out there,” he said.
Meanwhile, the island’s turtle patrol is bracing to protect sea turtles and hatchlings during their nesting season, which is from May 1 to Oct. 31.
Amber Kuehn, manager of the Hilton Head Sea Turtle Protection Project, said the patrol will have workers stationed overnight from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. at renourishment sites to make sure turtles don’t get stuck behind the pipes that run horizontal to the beach. The turtle patrol will also make its usual rounds each morning. If a turtle arrives to nest in the work area, operations must shut down until it lays its eggs. The nest will then be relocated away from the work.
Kuehn said that overall she did not expect the work to affect many nests or turtles. Turtles will likely avoid the lighted, noisy areas where renourishment occurs.
There was a concern about the Port Royal Sound work continuing until early July when eggs begin to hatch. She added, though, that the northern Port Royal area is a lighter nesting area. There were only six nests there last year.
Liggett said the contractor has until Aug. 15 to complete the project or face penalties of $10,000 a day. Currently, the work is scheduled to be completed in early July.
Most of the beach sections in the upcoming project were last renourished in winter 2007.
The town typically tries to renourish beaches in winter, but state and federal environmental agencies required it to avoid nesting seasons for endangered piping plover and red knot birds, Liggett said. Those migratory birds should be leaving the north end of the island by April.
Liggett said he hopes the project can make up time once it gets started.
“We will be working to get off that oceanfront beach as soon as we can,” he said.
Notice to boaters
Mariners are cautioned to beware of submerged pipes that should arrive in mid-March in Calibogue Sound for Hilton Head Island’s beach renourishment. The town has posted coordinates for the pipes’ locations at www.hiltonheadislandsc.gov.
Beach restoration timeline
- March 15 to early April — About 1 mile of shoreline at Sea Pines Resort near South Beach.
- April to early May — 5.5 miles between South Forest Beach and The Folly at Singleton Beach. (Work will move south to north in Forest Beach through April. Then from mid-May to early June, the work will shift to The Folly and head south by Palmetto Dunes.)
- Mid-June to early July — About 1.5 miles of shoreline between the island’s heel and the Barker Field area along Port Royal Sound.