Eroding Folly sees no sand Other beaches already have storm relief funds

Shore birds feed at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean at Folly Beach County Park, where a sand renourishment project is well under way behind them.

Brad Nettles

FOLLY BEACH — Who’s getting the sand this island has lost? The quick answer is Florida and North Carolina.

Brevard County, Fla., expects to start $29.3 million worth of dredging and beach renourishment work in November, almost all paid with Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Carolina Beach, N.C., has been awarded $1.5 million to renourish its shore.

Meanwhile, Folly Beach is still waiting, seven months after the storm and four months after Congress appropriated the relief money.

The city is asking for some funds to renourish the worst stretches of beach because it can’t get overall renourishment funding the federal government is obligated to provide. That money should come every eight years or as needed, because of erosion caused by the Charleston jetties.

That renourishment was last done in 2005. Since then, hurricanes Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 caused severe erosion at both ends of the island and ensuing storms exacerbated it. Houses are now in danger of falling into storm tides.

Political budget posturing has kept the obligated money from being appropriated. Meanwhile, the project cost has grown from an estimated $15 million to between $20 million and $25 million.

Congress in January authorized $5 billion for relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, after the storm tore up the East Coast last October.

Most of the money was directed to hard-hit Northeast states, but Southeast communities also can apply if their beaches were damaged by Sandy.

“Consistently putting ourselves in front of (legislators)” got it done for Carolina Beach, said Mayor Bob Lewis.

He has made two trips to Washington, D.C., this year.

New Hanover County, which includes the town, has an employee whose job is to lobby for funds like the relief money. And a residents group has organized to do the same. Working together, they pressed their state delegation.

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin approached the South Carolina delegation for help shortly after the fund was approved. He and others continue to push, he said. Asked why the city hasn’t been able to draw any yet, he said simply, “Call (U.S. Sen.) Lindsey Graham’s office and ask him.”

Graham’s office replied with an email statement: “We continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and local stakeholders to ensure the federal government fulfills its obligations. It’s an incredibly important issue for the local community and South Carolina’s tourism economy in general. We must get this done.”

But Rep. James Clyburn’s office said there was no movement on acquiring the funding. Neither Sen. Tim Scott’s nor Rep. Mark Sanford’s office replied after being asked for comment.

Meanwhile, the obligated renourishment funding now isn’t expected to come through soon enough to get the work done before 2015.

“The federal money (for beach renourishment) is as big as it’s ever been,” said Harry Simmons, American Shore and Beach Preservation Association president. “Not everybody is getting it when they want it. But they’re still getting it. Specific cases are still a challenge.”

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