Pine Island Beach is back open to Hilton Head Plantation residents after a renourishment project, but more work needs to be done, said plantation general manager Peter Kristian.
The renourishment — which began in April and brought in about 2,000 cubic yards of sand — is typically done every five years and has been done since 1998, Kristian said. Hurricane Matthew exacerbated the situation because of high tides and erosion, he said, noting the beach is not the same as it was before the Category 2 storm hit on Oct. 8.
“It’s a Band-Aid. It needs a lot more sand,” Kristian said, adding, “Just putting sand on the beach is not a long-term option.”
Hilton Head Plantation has been working with the state to modify its beach renourishment permit and is looking into three options, Kristian said. Those under consideration include creating a “living wall” made of stone or bagged oyster shells in the water that would reduce wave action to prevent damage, he said.
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The wall would not be visible at high tide, would have gaps to allow wildlife through and would run parallel to the beach, he said.
“It takes the wave energy out and calms water as it approaches the beach,” Kristian said, noting it would slow beach erosion.
Another option is building a short bridge to the mainland to make beach access easier; the last option is adding more sand, he said.
According to the May Hilton Head Plantation newsletter, the revised-permit proposal has been stalled as “the wheels of government (were) grinding very slowly” because of objections, including the loss of shore bird habitats and nesting turtles. The “mini-beach” renourishment was authorized in its place, the newsletter said.
One of the biggest concerns is the ability to get emergency equipment onto the beach, which is why revising the current permit is important, Kristian said.