The federal government has a lot of nerve asking Folly Beach for money.
See, the feds were supposed to start renourishing the beach out there a year ago. But because those knuckleheads in Congress can’t pass a budget, and you can’t get earmarks anymore, time has passed and — surprise — the price of the job has gone up.
Now, as Bo Petersen reports, the Army Corps of Engineers has no choice but to hit up the 2,600 residents of Folly for a few million bucks.
That’s kind of like someone wrecking your car and then asking you for the money to fix it.
Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it.
The erosion problems on Folly Beach are not simply the whims of Mother Nature. This is not about anyone building too close to the ocean.
This is entirely the federal government’s fault.
And the folks on Folly Beach shouldn’t have to pay a dime.
Messing with nature
Back in 1879, the government decided it didn’t want to dredge the channel into Charleston Harbor every couple of years.
So they set out on an ambitious project to build a pair of four-mile rock groins. This worked great for the channel, but the jetties stop the natural southward flow of 2 billion cubic feet of sand every year.
You know what happened next. Sullivan’s Island began to accrete, and Morris Island nearly disappeared. Within 50 years, a significant Civil War battlefield had largely washed away, and the island’s lighthouse was left standing in an inlet.
The jetties also hijack Folly’s natural supply of replenishing sand. It hasn’t suffered as much as Morris Island, but it’s not been pretty. Entire streets on Folly have been swallowed up by the Atlantic.
Think some of the houses are too close to water? Well, some of them used to be on the third row back from the beach.
Finally, a century after the jetties brainstorm, Folly Beach sued the government and won. And the feds have been nickel and diming them for local matches ever since.
“I don’t think our residents ought to have to pay,” says Folly Mayor Tim Goodwin.
He’s absolutely right.
You can debate the politics of beach renourishment all day, and make a compelling case that it’s foolhardy to throw money into the sea to fight the natural ebb and flow of coastal geography.
In some cases, that may be. But what’s happening on Folly is not a natural phenomenon.
Funny thing is, it used to be easier for the government to live up to its obligations. Our elected officials just got earmarks to pay for this stuff.
But Jim DeMint declared all earmarks bad, and they were wiped out in one fell swoop.
Kind of like Folly.
Now, instead of saving money, it’s costing us money.
Folly Beach doesn’t just belong to the town’s residents; it belongs to all of us.
Everyone uses it, even if we can’t drink there anymore.
The beach has a decided impact on our economy, so state officials should step in here and help Goodwin with this. Some people are starting to grumble that the State Ports Authority — which profits from that nice channel — should kick in a little, too.
We’ll see how well that goes over.
Goodwin is hoping that this fight can remain in the political arena, because his town can’t afford the legal battle that might result from this craziness.
So far our Congress types are promising to help. But Congress can’t even keep the Lincoln Memorial open. And if that’s a problem, rebuilding a beach seems impossible.
But that’s exactly what they must do.
A lot of these Washington types like to talk about “personal responsibility” these days, usually as a way to get out of spending government money. Well, Folly’s problems are the responsibility of Congress. And it costs money.
But if Washington folks show up on Folly with their hand out, it’d better be because they’re reaching for a shovel to help us fix the beach.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org