ISLE OF PALMS - A storm undermined the first "wave dissipation" wall - but a better wall might be on the way.
Inventor Deron Nettles is seeking state approval to install a second, more complete system to break up storm waves at Wild Dunes, keeping sand from eroding off the dunes. S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control regulators are evaluating the request, said Rheta DiNovo, regulatory programs director.
DHEC had a March 15 deadline for Nettles to remove the 88-foot-long portable wall, when a March 1 nor'easter undermined it at the edge, eroding sand that had been building up behind it during previous storm tide events. It had to be removed.
Meanwhile, emergency sand has been placed in front of the Seascape Villas in Wild Dunes, where the experimental wall formerly stood.
Down the beach, sandbags continue to protect the signature 18th hole of Wild Dunes resort's Links Course, in violation of a Dec. 31 deadline to remove them. Regulators have begun an administrative enforcement process and are working with golf course officials, said Mark Plowden, DHEC communications director. The process decides fines. Golf Director Jeff Minton said there's legislation proposed to allow the bags to remain.
In between the course and Seacape, the Ocean Club condominiums have sand bags in place under a permit that expires March 31.
The storm damage to the wall wasn't unexpected, Nettles said. He originally had wanted to put in wall wings back toward the dune line to prevent that, but it wasn't approved.
Otherwise, though, the project did what it was supposed to, said Tim Mays, a professor at The Citadel specializing in coastal engineering, who's overseeing the project. The new wall would be twice as long and include those wings.
Not just regulators have taken notice. John O'Hare, of the Seascape homeowners association, has championed the system to state legislators. Nettles has made a presentation of the device to an S.C. Senate committee considering changes in the current beach regulations.
The wave dissipater is a set of panels designed to break up the big waves that cause the worst beach erosion, but allow water and fine sand to pass back and forth between the panel pipes, protecting the dunes behind while simulating the flow on an unobstructed beach.
Sea walls are largely banned under state law, but the system is assembled from portable components that can be removed when no storm threatens, so Nettles believes it should be allowed. Regulators allowed the Seascape wall as a test run of the system, because Nettles worked under the auspices of The Citadel.
The stretch of Wild Dunes beach near Dewees Inlet historically has been volatile and eroding. In 2007, while the controversial 2008 renourishment of the stretch labored its way through permitting, half the 18th green washed away, while waves swept through Seascape and neighboring condominiums until they were threatened with condemnation.
Within two years, the properties were threatened again, and more sand was poured. They now are threatened a third time, and managers wait anxiously for a re-attaching offshore sandbar to bring the sand that they hope will stabilize the beach at least for awhile. The attachment is expected to happen by the fall.
"I do not do not do not want to put sand bags down," said O'Hare, of the Seascape homeowners association. He is eager to see the wall reinstalled.
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