ISLE OF PALMS--The fix needs a fix.
Less than two years after the Wild Dunes beach was saved in a controversial $10 million renourishment, high tide surf once again crowds the resort's signature oceanfront 18th hole and nearby Ocean Club condominiums. New dunes have been dumped from trucks along the hole in a stop-gap effort to ward off a "hot spot" of erosion.
The erosion scarp is getting cut away by a channel as a huge sandbar creeps toward shore from Dewees Inlet -- an unsettling development for a project that was supposed to last eight to 10 years. City officials are seeking a state permit to scrape sand from sandbars that already have attached to the beach and use it to fill in the hot spot.
It's a temporary fix, to shore up the beach until the offshore sandbar attaches, renourishing the beach on its own.
"They believe they can basically move sand around and fill in that area for a long while," said Mayor Dick Cronin, about the engineers who are monitoring the beach. "Frankly, it's a small volume that needs to be moved. It's the most effective way (to do it)."
The method is called shoal scraping. It's also controversial, and previous city attempts to get permits to do shoal scraping have been opposed, City Council was told at a special meeting on the erosion. A recent report by a state shoreline advisory panel said scraping can "downdrift" some of the remaining sandbar; in other words, knock it loose in the current and keep it from beaching.
Tim Kana, president of Coastal Science & Engineering, the firm running the project for the city, recommended scraping as the most cost-effective way to fill the spot. The scraping should speed up the sandbar attaching itself to the beach, he said in an e-mail. He told council members to expect that getting a permit could take two years.
"We're going to have to look at it in the details" before deciding whether to challenge the permit, said Hamilton Davis, program manager for the Coastal Conservation League, the environmental advocate that fought permits for some of the shoring-up work before the 2008 renourishment.
In the bigger picture, Davis said, shoal scraping is "one more of those solutions that are just gambles. It's a poor land use decision."
The 2008 renourishment was wrenched from two years of legal arm-wrestling between owners and state regulators after tens of thousands of sandbags washed away in storm tides, littering the coast and marshes for miles. The $10 million was paid for largely by Wild Dunes property owners, with tax money paying $3 million.
From the beginning, some opposed using any public money to shore up the private resort -- tax revenue or not.
Hot spots were expected in the unstable inlet area after the 2008 renourishment, and $1 million from that project was set aside to deal with them. The proposed shoal scraping would cost less than that.
Overall, some 80 percent of the renourishment sand is still in place. Along the hot spot, more than half the sand is estimated to still be in place.
Kana said he expects another round of sandbar movement to start in the next few years, "so this is likely a recurring problem -- just as it has been for the past three decades." He's confident the erosion will be a fraction of the erosion that occurred before the project, he said.
Before the 2008 project could get started, half of the green had washed away on the 18th hole, and the Ocean Club had waves washing into its carport. The Ocean Club and nearby condominiums were facing condemnation. The erosion this time cut close enough to the hole and the Ocean Club by March that the owners of both asked for state permits to dump the truck sand. But at low tide the beach is still wide.
"We're not particularly alarmed at this point," said Carl Harper, of the Ocean Club. "It appears the beach is renourishing itself."
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or email@example.com.