July 16, 2008

DeBordieu Beach Asks to Build Groin to Save Sand

By Kelly Marshall Fuller, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Jul. 16--An application to allow the possible construction of a groin system at DeBordieu Beach is drawing opposition from environmentalists, who say the man-made barriers could damage southern beaches and the North Estuarine Wildlife Preserve.

The application, which is now being considered by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, will be the subject of a public meeting next week at the Waccamaw Public Library.

Representatives from the Coastal Conservation League say they do not approve of the plan, since there could be damage to the pristine North Inlet Estuarine Preserve, just south of the gated community.

DHEC officials said it could take more than a year to receive permits to build the groins.

Few groin permits are issued in South Carolina, unless there is severe erosion of a private development or the erosion threatens a nearby public area.

"The erosion is not all that bad right now, but they are thinking that it would obtain several years to obtain a permit," said Bill Eisner, permit manager for beach renourishment at the S.C. Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. "They are trying to get one beforehand."

The groin construction project would not qualify for state or federal funds, as there is no public access to the DeBordieu Beach, Eisner said. The project would have to coincide with beach renourishment, which would also have to be paid for by the DeBordieu homeowners.

Environmentalists say the nearby beaches at Hobcaw Barony, and the undeveloped areas on North and South Island could be affected by the construction of beach groins.

The last beach groins constructed in Georgetown County were in Garden City Beach in 2002. The groin project was stopped, but restarted, after construction of beach groins was outlawed by the state.

Groins are now allowed but must be built of approved materials and for specific reasons, Eisner said.

Groins are wooden or stone structures that stick out from the beach. They catch sand as it washes along the coast. Groins are controversial because while they build beaches above them, they starve beaches below them, according to geologists.

"It does harden the beach, and groins will trap sand as it is moving south," said Nancy Cave, director of the Georgetown office of the Coastal Conservation League. "That will deny sand to Hobcaw and the estuarine reserve.

"DeBordieu will argue they are not asking for public funds, but the groins are going to be placed in an area of the beach which is owned by the people of the state."

Representatives from the DeBordieu Colony Property Owners Association were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Contact KELLY MARSHALL FULLER at 357-9187.


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