Bagging the beach

Large sandbags have been placed on the eroding beach in front of more homes in the Beachwood East area of Wild Dunes.

ISLE OF PALMS - Large sandbags have been placed on the eroding beach in front of 11 more homes in Wild Dunes, creating an intermittent wall for a mile to the signature 18th hole of the resort's Links Course.

Meanwhile, the hole left at the edge of private properties during the Folly Beach renourishment might be inching closer to being filled.

At Wild Dunes, high tide now laps at Beachwood East homes, well down the beach and around a small point from the volatile Dewees Inlet. Believe it or not, that's a good thing.

The worsening erosion along this stretch is one more sign that currents are moving a long-sought shoal, or sandbar, ashore, where its sand will be spread to restore the beach. The Beachwood East stretch is downstream of that sandbar, which is hogging the shore flow of sand.

"As these shoals come ashore, you have to go through this period of worst erosion," said Tim Kana, of Coastal Science and Engineering, which is managing erosion issues on the Wild Dunes beach.

The bags have been placed in front of homes along the Beachwood East and Dunecrest Lane. For homeowners, the situation is eerily reminiscent of the 2007 "sand bag debacle," when the same row of homes, condominiums and golf course hole staved off the seas by piling tens of thousands of small sandbags that then washed away in storms and littered the coast nearby. In 2008 the beach was renourished. But in the inlet area, beach erosion and shoal attachment is a constant process.

The larger bags are supposed to be more stable. Observers have reported a few of them collapsing and lying in the tide flow on the beach.

"They are big bags," said Bill Majors, a Mount Pleasant resident who walked the beach earlier this week. Hopefully these bags won't be lost to the tide like the smaller bags, "but it's the same material so we'll have to wait and see," he said.

As the Wild Dunes dilemma reaches another critical point, the city of Folly Beach and the U.S. Army Corps might be resolving problems with their renourishment project that has made a mess of the beach on the east end. Sand-pouring stopped at the public beach boundary, leaving gaping, flooded pits between a number of private properties and the beach and potentially shortening the lifespan of those sands.

The Army Corps has identified areas that need to be filled and the city has hired a surveyor, said David Warren, Army Corps project manager in the Charleston district. If there's sand left over when the project finishes, the city or homeowners could buy that sand and piping is still in place to store it on city property near the holes, he said. The city or homeowners would be responsible for filling.

The project itself is 60 percent complete, Warren said. Sand has been renourished well past the Washout and work is approaching the pier.

Back at Wild Dunes, Kana remains confident the shoal will attach to the shore well enough to pull sand by November.

Meanwhile, beachfront residents again find themselves on the wave-washed edge of their seats.

"We've seen this beach when the water was washing up between the (Beachwood East) houses. Then last fall they had a hundred feet of vegetated dune," said Rick Carr, a longtime Wild Dunes owner who lives nearby. "It happens every cycle. If you look out (in the water) you can see all sorts of sandbars. Two years from now it will be back to being a big beach again."

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