In South Carolina, beach renourishment is a never-ending job.
Currently, Edisto Beach is in the thick of its beach restoration effort as North Myrtle Beach awaits word on when its next shoreline project can begin. Folly Beach is working on securing funds to repair its storm-damaged coast.
Those sorts of major projects pump millions of cubic yards of sand ashore and typically happen in seven- to 10-year cycles.
But smaller, more frequent efforts may be a better approach, says a Coastal Carolina University expert.
"We have limited renourishment resources, and we're going to be doing renourishment forever," said Dr. Paul Gayes. "How do we go forward into the future?"
Getting lesser amounts of offshore sand from places that naturally replenish themselves in a relatively short time would be a form of recycling, he said.
"We're going to have to think about how we do these things," Gayes said. "How we've done it in the past may not be the best way."
The Army Corps of Engineers has announced a $10.6 million emergency beach renourishment project for the city of North Myrtle Beach.
When the project will begin has yet to be determined, said city spokesman Patrick Dowling.
"My information is that the Corps will seek an all-encompassing bid for the city’s project and a renourishment project for the Garden City beach area," he said in an email.
The Garden City project was postponed about a year ago when bids for the work came in too high, Dowling said.
"The pricing on that bid appears to have been influenced by the fact that only cutterhead dredge companies participated in the bidding process," he said. "This time around, they are hoping to attract bids from hopper dredges, which could reduce the bid prices significantly."
At Folly Beach, Hurricane Matthew stole thousands of cubic yards of sand, which has accelerated the need for another big renourishment. The last Folly project pumped 1.7 million cubic yards of sand onto 5 miles of beach.
Mayor Tim Goodwin recently visited Washington, D.C., to meet with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., about the city's need for federal funding to restore the beach. He hopes that a beach project can happen late next year.
Folly is exploring using the Stono River as a sand source, which would be half the cost of dredging offshore in the ocean, he said.
"We're still just trying to get all the dominoes to fall in place," Goodwin said.
At Edisto, the $17 million beach renourishment covers the length of the island — more than 3 miles of shoreline. It also includes improvements to numerous beach groins.
Colleton County, the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and the Federal Emergency Management Agency contributed to the effort, which includes Edisto Beach State Park. The town's share is $3 million, which it's paying from tourism taxes.
Edisto is racing against the turtle nesting season.
"We are still targeting May 1," said Mayor Jane Darby. "If for some unexpected reason the work is not complete, we will employ turtle monitors and other safeguards."
Meanwhile, Gayes was busy Thursday aboard the research vessel Coastal Explorer where he and assistants used sonar to gather data that will create a mosaic of 10 miles of shallow ocean floor.
The work will contribute to a scientific understanding of the processes that shape the coastline, including erosion, and should be a tool to help better manage the coast, he said.