Folly may get new erosion project sooner than expected

The Army Corps of Engineers surveyed sand lost at Folly Beach last October. On Monday, the Corps said the storm damage was not enough for an emergency beach renourishment project. (file/staff)

Folly Beach will weather the upcoming storm season without the benefit of an $8 million emergency beach restoration project for its erosion-scarred shoreline.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday that the island did not qualify for the federally-funded quick fix. Folly sought the help because of damage that storms inflicted in October.

“It’s disappointing, but that’s just the way it works,” Mayor Tim Goodwin said. “You can’t make it happen if it doesn’t happen.”

He said the island shoreline is OK for now but that could change, depending on the severity of the storm season.

In 2014, Folly had 1.5 million cubic yards of sand pumped ashore. To qualify for emergency beach renourishment, the city had to show that at least 33 percent of that sand was lost due to Hurricane Joaquin-related weather, Goodwin said.

Although the erosion was insufficient for near-term aid, the situation has a silver lining because the Army Corps has moved to secure funds for the next major renourishment project, so that could happen ahead of schedule.

“You’re probably talking about the summer of 2018,” Goodwin said.

He was in Washington, D.C., on Monday where he planned to meet with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford about funding for beach renourishment.

“We’ll be working The Hill again. We never get to quit,” he said.

The $30 million Folly renourishment project completed two years ago was supposed to last seven-to-10 years. It included $25 million in federal funds and local funding. The amount of sand lost since then because of storms has the city scrambling for beach renourishment funding.

Wes Wilson, project manager for the Army Corps Charleston District, said the damage from the October storms was insufficient for federal aid to fund an emergency renourishment project. But the erosion reached a “trigger point” for the Corps to request funds for a major renourishment project in the president’s fiscal year 2018 budget, he said.

Nicole Elko, a city consultant who is a coastal scientist, said calculations show there will be enough storm protection on the island for the time being.

“It’s not ideal right now, but we do foresee that we should be able to get through the next couple of storm seasons with the amount of sand that’s on the beach presently,” Elko said.

Storm-related sand loss happened island-wide with the east end being a hot spot, she said.

Folly met eight of 10 criteria for a quick-fix beach restoration project. But in two required areas it did not qualify. Among them, the cost of the proposed beach repair work was too high relative to the benefits, Wilson said.

The October storms washed away an estimated 250,000 cubic yards of sand, officials said.

The city paid $5 million of the tab for the beach renourishment completed in July 2014.

Folly has a long-term agreement with the federal government for assistance with beach renourishment because of the effect of the Charleston jetties which block the southward flow of sand that otherwise would replenish the beach.