As a project to clear sediment from three clogged waterways in Sea Pines awaits a final permit, Hilton Head Island Town Council is considering whether the town should help oversee the dredging projects that follow.
Previous and current work has been led by the South Island Dredging Association, composed of boat slip owners at Harbour Town Yacht Basin and South Beach Marina, and some Sea Pines residents.
But the association's president, Jack Brinkley, has said he will step aside after Harbour Town Yacht Basin, Baynard Cove Creek and Braddock Cove Creek, where South Beach Marina is located, are dredged.
The project could begin in November, and all three waterways could be cleared of sediment by next April, according to the dredging association.
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The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control approved the project's permits last month. A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the agency probably would issue its permit within two weeks.
After the project is completed, "we've got no one out there to carry this forward in the future," Councilman George Williams said during a town planning workshop Monday.
Williams represents Ward 5, which includes Sea Pines, and is a former member of the dredging association.
He and other council members said town staff might be best suited to succeed Brinkley, who has managed Sea Pines' dredging for about 12 years.
Allowing the town to take over dredging might make it easier to get permits approved by state and federal regulators, whom town staff deals with often, according to Williams.
Town management of dredging might also help tourism on the island, some argue. Business at Harbour Town, for example, has been hurt by its clogged marina, which is too shallow at low tide for some boats to navigate or larger vessels to dock, according to Sea Pines officials.
"(Town staff) does a great job with beach renourishment, and this is an asset just as valuable as our beaches, in my opinion," said Councilman Lee Edwards.
But such a comparison is not apt, Councilman John McCann said.
"This is private property; whereas, the beaches are public property," he said.
Town Council members agreed during the meeting that the issue, including how to pay for dredging projects, needs more study.
The dredging association will pay more than 90 percent of the cost to dredge the three Sea Pines waterways. Sea Pines Resort will pay the rest.
An estimate of the cost of the project was not immediately available Friday. Brinkley said in April that the amount is uncertain because of fluctuating fuel prices.
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.