A committee studying beach erosion recommends banning groins -- wooden and rock walls that combat beach erosion by trapping sand -- from many stretches of South Carolina's shore.
That has Town of Hilton Head Island officials concerned.
The Committee on Shoreline Management agreed Tuesday at a meeting in Columbia that the state should allow groins only on the ends of beaches and near inlets that need to remain open for boat traffic.
Groins are intended to stop sand as it washes down the coast. But, for the most part, they benefit the beach above them where the sand is trapped, while sections below them erode faster because they are starved for sand, committee member and former Hilton Head Mayor Tom Peeples said Wednesday.
The committee's recommendation will go to the Department of Health and Environmental Control board and the Legislature later this year.
If legislators approve it, it would effectively stop installation of groins in the surf perpendicular to the shoreline.
Peeples said the recommendation would not preclude Hilton Head Island's groins, but the state needs "to get away from what other (towns and cities) have done with groins spread every several hundred yards."
However, a town official worries such a ban would hinder the island's efforts to slow erosion in the future.
"Clearly, they're not appropriate in all locations and can be built in a way that causes problems. . . ," said Scott Liggett, public projects and facilities director. "But they can also be placed and designed in a way that avoids those problems."
Crews last week finished building a 700-foot-long wall of granite boulders to stabilize a mile-long stretch of renourished beach at Port Royal Plantation. The $1.6 million groin will trap sand that normally would be lost to coastal drift, but it has been engineered to also allow some sand to move over its top so other beach areas are not deprived.
Without the groin, the $10 million worth of sand placed along the beach would wash away quicker, Liggett said.It's the third groin the town has built, but the first for the island's oceanfront. Other groins have been built elsewhere on the island by private groups.
A groin at the inlet to Braddock Cove near South Beach has moved the high-water line seaward almost 80 feet and stacked sand nearly four feet high, Liggett said. The sand would have otherwise built up at the entrance to the inlet.
"Our experience has been that groins have been very successful and are clearly functioning as intended," Liggett said. "They are appropriate in certain circumstances ... (but) let us consider them when and where they're appropriate -- where the impacts can be quantified."
No new groins are planned by the town, "but that doesn't say conditions won't develop to where we'd need to develop that," Liggett said.
The shoreline committee has been working for more than a year on ways to improve the state's 24-year-old beach management law, which calls for a gradual retreat of new development from the oceanfront as beaches erode. Some say the law has not been effective.
The (Columbia) State newspaper contributed to this report.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.