Army Corps and Folly Beach on rocky terms over beach renourishment

Rocks in the sand at Folly Beach are from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach re-nourishment project. (Leroy Burnell/File)

The Army Corps of Engineers is on rocky terms with Folly Beach over large chunks of calcified material spread throughout some of the dredged sand deposited during the most recent beach renourishment effort.

Beachgoers near the Folly Pier have complained this summer about the rocks, which were dredged up with sand from offshore as part of an effort to help build up the beach against erosion.

Though the Corps has tried to rectify the situation with beach-sweeping efforts and even offered to buy rock-picking equipment for the city, it's just another misstep in a long string of errors and miscalculations on the project.

Lack of funding, legal battles with beachfront property owners and communication failures with federal engineers, among other issues, have created headaches for the city during the current renourishment cycle.

Rocks on the beach may ultimately amount to little more than an unpleasant inconvenience, but they point to a deeper disregard for the importance of a healthy beach in maintaining a fragile coastal ecosystem and a major economic driver.

Folly Beach City Council and Mayor Tim Goodwin have committed considerable time and resources to developing a long term plan that aims to both ensure the successful completion of the current renourishment project and improve future efforts. But they will need closer cooperation in the future from the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government.

The Corps is required to periodically provide for beach renourishment at critical coastal areas around the country, including Folly Beach. The city struck a deal for assistance in maintaining its beaches after construction of the jetties at the entrance of Charleston Harbor, which contribute significantly to erosion on Folly.

Though the program has managed to preserve a basic beachfront on Folly thus far, the Lowcountry's reputation as a summer vacation mecca demands attention to even the finest details, down to the grains of sand.

The Corps will have to do more than pick up rocks in order to reassure Folly Beach residents that they haven't been sandbagged in this latest effort.