ISLE OF PALMS — Beleaguered Wild Dunes beachfront property owners have been given a glimmer of hope — a renourishment permit that might not be opposed. But they want to keep their wall of thousands of sandbags.
The state insists that the bags must be removed by Nov. 30. The owners say they need to stay. An Isle of Palms resident says he will appeal any permit that doesn't remove them.
The state permit issued this week allows renourishment but restricts it to sand from an "upland source," essentially sand trucked in from somewhere else. That means sand can't be taken from Cedar Creek Spit in Dewees Inlet, the original source in the permit. Other property owners and the Coastal Conservation League had threatened to appeal to stop that.
The permit requires that the sandbags be removed as renourishment sand is laid. Those sandbags are all that's left now between the ocean at high tide and six oceanfront condominium complexes and the signature golf course at the gated resort community.
Recent storm tides crashed over the wall of bags into the complexes and tore off half the 18th green at the prestigious Links course.
"There's just no way we can survive out there with the sand we can physically move from an upland source," said Beth Colley, property manager of the Ocean Club, the largest of the complexes. The bags have to remain until enough sand accumulates on the beach to hold the renourishment in place, she said.
If that can be worked out, the limited liability company formed by the property owners is "chomping at the bit," she said, to go ahead with renourishment.
Meanwhile, Jim Smiley, the Isle of Palms property owner whose appeal of the first Wild Dunes renourishment permit set off a legal struggle now in its fifth year, said he would appeal the new permit if it didn't require the bags to be removed.
S.C. Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, the agency that issued the permit, considers the upland sand renourishment adequate to restore the beach, and the sand bag removal critical to protecting the beach in the long term, spokesman Dan Burger wrote in an e-mail.
The complexes and golf course are fighting erosion that has literally cut the tip of the island's beach in half over the past few years. It's the consequence of Hurricane Hugo damage and rough weather during a time of sand loss on the inlet beach, which periodically gains or loses sand.
The properties now are protected by the sandbag wall, but the bags are being shredded in the wash. The owners are battling with state regulators over an enforcement order that could include fines and mitigation demands because hundreds of thousands of bags already have washed away.
The owners still need to get plans approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, a process that will take more than two weeks.