FOLLY BEACH - Renourishment has made a mess of the beach on the east end of this island, where the sand-pouring stopped at the public beach boundary, leaving gaping, flooded pits between a number of property owners and the beach.
Drainage and erosion of the pits could undermine the renourished sand in front, compromising the ability to form dunes and potentially shortening the lifespan of those sands. Meanwhile, residents say this renourishment provided less sand than the last round.
After Folly Beach last was renourished, in 2005, passing hurricanes did enough damage along the same stretch that a patch job had to be done two years later - at two-thirds of the cost of the original $12 million project. The area has been rapidly eroding since.
This year's work is costing about $30 million.
A little less sand has been used this time because there was less beach to work with, said David Warren, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager in the Charleston district.
A number of the affected owners didn't sign easements that would have turned over the pit area as public beach, allowing sand to be poured. But neighbors who did or built farther back now find themselves across a moat from the ocean.
"It looks horrendous. It would be virtually impossible for me to make it to the beach," said Laurie Sherrod, 64, whose family cabin has been surrounded by bigger, newer properties with bulwarks that have eroded sand in front of the family property.
The problem has become a $2.5 million standoff - the estimated cost of the work - among the Army Corps, the city and property owners, some of whose houses were built seaward of the historic beach line - with city approval - after earlier renourishments created more property. That pushed the private property lines closer to the ocean.
The Army Corps told Folly Beach officials before the work started that the city would be responsible to get public right-of-way easements or pay for sand along some 35 lots.
"We can't put federal sand on private property," Warren said. Project engineers are not happy with the outcome. "That's why we've been in discussion with the mayor for the last few months," he said.
The city balked but could not negotiate a better deal before the dredge pipes moved past. Owners were reluctant to sign away their properties.
"They understand it's their property. It's their liability. We haven't heard anyone jump up and say, 'Take my property,' " said Mayor Tim Goodwin.
The options now are limited. If the pits are to be renourished, sand would have to be brought in by trucks.
"It's not pretty, but I don't know any other way they could do it," Warren said.
Brig. Gen. Donald Jackson, the Army Corps Southeast region commander, is scheduled to tour the renourishment work on March 31. Glenn Jeffries, district spokeswoman, said Jackson's visit is not related to the pits but is part of a final regional tour before he departs for Afghanistan in a command change.
"The corps and the (dredging) contractor knew this was going to happen," said resident J.D. McAllister, who also finds himself stranded behind the flooded pits. "I don't think they have a right to design a project and implement a project that causes damage to me, and just get away with it."
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