FOLLY BEACH — Both sides gave ground, finally, and the Coastal Conservation League now says it won’t oppose a permit to build a groin at the severely eroding county park here.
The environmental advocate league has reached a compromise with Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission that clears the way to try to restore lost beach and protect sand renourishment to rebuild the Folly Beach County Park that has been closed for more than a year.
The project now awaits state and federal permits. The state permit is under review.
Once the Army Corps of Engineers has the state permit in hand, deciding on the federal permit will become “a priority to us,” said Glenn Jeffries, Charleston district office public affairs officer. “We’ll do it as quickly as possible.”
It can’t be too soon. The sands that formerly were the park grounds now sweep into the marsh behind it. The parking lot is eroded away. The former dune walkovers and park offices have been removed.
If the league had opposed the permits in court, the protracted fight could have doomed the popular park, one of only three sizable public beach parks in the Charleston area. The compromise ended a three-month stalemate over negotiations that occasionally angered both sides and at times was reduced to position papers drafted by an attorney.
“It seemed like once we stepped away from that process, we got right back on track,” said Katie Zimmerman of the league.
“I really think that they wanted it resolved. I know we wanted it resolved, and at the end of the day the process will be fair,” said Tom O’Rourke, commission executive director. “The winners in all this are the people who live here.”
The league originally opposed building a 700-foot groin that would have stretched 250 feet or more into the ocean, but with the park in jeopardy and public opinion favoring restoring it, league advocates scaled back demands to call for an independent monitor to judge whether the wall worsened erosion at nearby shorebird grounds.
State coastal policy discourages groins because, while they collect sand upstream of the barrier, they exacerbate erosion downstream.
The commission wanted the engineer overseeing the project, along with state and federal coastal regulators, to decide whether the groin would further erode Bird Key Stono and Skimmer Flats — a finding that would require removing the groin.
The agreement puts monitors sought by both sides on a committee to decide on an independent monitor.
Zimmerman characterized the groin as a temporary fix to coastal erosion.
“I’m happy with this as a compromise,” she said. “But we have to start addressing long-term solutions.”
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