Hilton Head Island officials hope to expedite dredging within Sea Pines by paying for an independent engineering review.
Town Council's Public Facilities Committee voted unanimously to recommend the town spend $25,000 to hire an independent consultant to compile, validate and make a recommendation on all information gathered so far on how those within Sea Pines should proceed with dredging.
About 323,700 cubic yards of sand and mud need to be dredged from the Harbour Town and South Beach marinas and Calibogue, Braddock Cove and Baynard Cove creeks, according to a 2008 engineering survey. The creeks have become so clotted with sediment that large boats might soon be unable to pass and Harbour Town Yacht Basin might close to yachts, officials within the gated community say.
Town Council set aside $25,000 in the current budget for a study of the town's potential role in dredging private marinas. What the town's role would be is still unclear. In the past, it has declined to get involved.
The last round of dredging, in 2003, ended with the Island Dredging Association, made of up slip owners and residents in Sea Pines, paying a fine and having stricter regulations put on its dredging permit after a contractor was accused of improperly dumping spoil into Calibogue Sound, instead of an approved offshore site.
On Tuesday, however, committee members said they'd like to see the town oversee permitting and management of future dredging to ensure it's done in an efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sensitive manner. Members said the town is well-suited for such a role, given its favorable reputation with environmental and regulatory groups regarding its beach renourishment efforts.
"The town is going to have to take some type of responsibility for dredging island waterways on an ongoing basis," said George Williams Jr., a committee member and town councilman who lives in Sea Pines. "This is a good first step."
During Tuesday's meeting, the committee denied a request for $25,000 from Sea Pines' Community Service Associates to pay for two dredging studies CSA wants to conduct.
CSA had requested part of the money for a study to determine how much dredge spoil could be dumped at an on-land site on Calibogue Cay, if that site could be expanded and how that spoil could be permanently disposed of.
The rest of the money would have gone toward a separate study to see whether less mud could be removed from Braddock Cove and Baynard Cove creeks and access still be maintained.
Committee members said paying for a study focused on a single disposal option would have been premature and a waste of money, given the uncertainty of whether such an option is feasible.
"This allows us to look holistically at all options, including open-water disposal, instead of looking at on-land disposal options that may not work out," said committee chairwoman and Town Council member Kim Likins.
Committee member and town councilman Bill Harkins said the town's study would give stakeholders in the dredging reliable information with which to act.
"The accuracy, objectivity and relevance of the data need to be examined," he said.
Cary Kelley, CSA executive vice president, said the committee's decision was prudent, and the association would still commission the studies it seeks.
"Sea Pines will pay for these studies, regardless, as they're helpful for an independent review," Kelley said. "We welcome any and all assistance from the town to help us with this issue, long-term, any way they can."
Kelley said Sea Pines hopes to have some dredging done next winter.
The committee's recommendation goes to the full Town Council on March 15 for consideration.