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Horry County seeks federal help to improve navigation along the Waccamaw River

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The Waccamaw River could see debris removed to improve its navigation for boaters. File/Mac Stone/Provided

HORRY COUNTY — Unwanted debris and trees in the Waccamaw River could be cleared out in an effort to improve river navigation, but first Horry County will need additional funding from the federal government.

At the request of Horry County Government, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers toured problem areas of the Waccamaw River above and below Highway 9. After seeing numerous trees and other obstacles blocking water flow and boating ability, the Corps’ Charleston office determined the county can move forward with seeking federal relief.

“A little branch coming out of the water implies there is a bigger branch, or a tree, under the water,” Horry County Stormwater Director Thom Roth said.

Roth and the Corps are preparing an application to the national Corps offices seeking to start a $500,000 project that could help improve water flow along the river, but it’ll mostly help make the river more navigable for boaters and fishers.

If the application is approved and the process is started sometime next month, the Corps will first pay for the entirety of a $100,000 study to determine the most afflicted areas and what the potential benefit will be for a "snag-and-drag" operation.

That will leave $400,000 for the actual construction work, with the county responsible for 35 percent of those expenses. State Rep. William Bailey said the delegation has secured $125,000 of yearly funding for removing trees and other debris from the river to improve navigability that would be available to help with the effort.

During the meeting of the county’s flooding task force, April O’Leary, leader of Horry County Rising, a flood resiliency advocacy group, asked if the study will determine if there is value to flooded families worth investing in.

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“What are we saving? What are we protecting? Who are we helping when we go after these projects?” O’Leary said, adding that the county ought to focus more of its efforts on flood relief for families displaced by rising waters.

Horry County Assistant Administrator for Infrastructure David Gilreath responded that this application is just one of many projects the county is seeking, and that the study will provide a cost-benefit analysis that will help county leaders determine the next best steps.

During the rest of the task force meeting on Feb. 19, the committee was also updated on other projects, including the ongoing flood resiliency project, supplemental flood zone maps, and other long-term initiatives the county is exploring to improve water flow and lessen the impacts of flooding.

These plans will be debated further and presented to the public in the coming months.

“No other municipality to my knowledge has done this,” said Rob Young, a professor who is leading the mitigation plan effort.

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