State legislators are calling on the S.C. congressional delegation to find funds to renourish critical sand disappearing tide by tide from the popular Folly Beach County Park and other oceanfront properties.
Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is looking at providing money for a temporary fix, after local leaders appealed to Rep. Tim Scott. But hopes are tempered for any immediate repair of the Charleston County park that is on the edge of overwash.
"It sounds like a Hail Mary pass, but I'm not critical of throwing a Hail Mary pass when there's no other alternative," Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, said about a state request to FEMA for $5.5 million in emergency funds that would supply enough sand to at least stabilize the beach while a complete renourishment is pursued.
"At least we're getting some action on that end," said Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin.
Only a thin scarp of sand remains where dunes used to protect the parking lot, boardwalks and buildings at the county park.
Hurricane Irene ate into the dunes in August, and subsequent high tides are stripping away what's left. The park is closed until further notice and is in danger of a storm tide washing over the parking lot and destroying its only road access.
In a letter sent this month, Rep. Chip Limehouse, the Charleston County legislative delegation chairman, asked the state's two U.S. senators and six U.S. representatives for assistance obtaining $15.3 million in federal funds for an overall beach renourishment by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The letter asks for the appropriation to be expedited so that work can be done this spring, instead of a scheduled 2013 renourishment.
The letter also asks for an immediate $1 million to build a groin into the ocean at the county park, as well as assistance with regulatory approval.
It refers to a potential loss of 300 public and private properties and $300 million in property value along the town's five miles of beach. About 100,000 people use the county park each year, the letter states.
"It's our hope they can get the money in the budget this year," said Limehouse, R- Charleston.
There's no money for the Folly Beach renourishment currently in the 2012 budget. The 2013 budget is expected to be announced in February.
If the money is there, and Congress approves it, work would be expected to done in summer or fall 2013.
Recent federal budgets, including the 2012 budget, have been stalled by dissension in Congress, and spending has been cut.
The letter also called for a meeting between the two delegations. It bluntly pointed out that under a 50-year contract, the federal government pays most of the cost for periodically renourishing the beach.
That contract came after a 1992 study demonstrated that erosion along the town's five miles of beach is exacerbated by sand deprivation caused by the Charleston jetties.
The letter came after local leaders appealed to the state for help.
"We looked at the situation, but it's not a state issue. The federal government has agreed to cure the harm they've done to Folly Beach," Limehouse said, adding that it's not fair that South Carolina taxpayers should pay for repairs.
The county delegation called for the meeting to make sure the congressional delegation is aware that it is their obligation to put Folly Beach back together, he said.
A conference call with the local delegation and U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint is being worked out, and Limehouse said the county delegation still is likely to travel to Washington for a further meeting with the full congressional delegation, to discuss the renourishment and a number of issues, such as port deepening and the rail lines for the North Charleston port terminal now in development.
Both senators' offices confirmed that they would meet or speak with the delegation, but did not comment further.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or follow him on Twitter at @bopete.