Sanford should push feds for Folly rescue

A couple walks past beachfront homes at the east end of Folly Beach that have lost the dunes to erosion.

Brad Nettles

Folly Beach suffers from a severe erosion problem that is caused by more than Mother Nature. Indeed, the federal government has acknowledged that the Charleston Harbor jetties are in large part responsible for the rapid rate of erosion.

Unfortunately, the feds haven’t followed up with the funding needed to keep Folly’s front beach from washing away — even though they have contractually agreed to do so.

Newly elected Rep. Mark Sanford should put the Folly project at the top of his to-do list as he prepares to return to Washington.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged in 1987 that the Charleston jetties are partially responsible for Folly’s high rate of erosion, and agreed to help fund its renourishment over the following 50 years.

But as reporter Bo Petersen observed in his Friday article, funding for the project has been tied up in “political budget posturing,” despite the efforts of Folly Beach officials and at least some members of the state’s congressional delegation. It’s difficult to understand why the Folly Beach project would be a subject of budget controversy, earmark or otherwise, since federal funding for the renourishment would be allocated to meet the conditions of a contract.

But there’s been little movement on the matter since the beach was last renourished in 2005.

As he takes over the 1st District congressional seat he held from 1995-2001, Mr. Sanford should focus on the Folly project, thereby demonstrating the greater degree of pragmatism that he says will inform his work in Congress.

As Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, “It’s an incredibly important issue for the local community and South Carolina’s tourism.”

Clearly, Folly is sustaining serious damage, which some residents are trying to halt on their own. And while beach renourishment may not generally be a great use of public funds, the feds have acknowledged that the jetties have largely caused this particular problem.

That’s why the Corps of Engineers agreed to pay 73.8 percent of the project’s expense, most recently estimated to cost $25 million.

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin tells us that the local Corps office has been supportive of getting the project under way as soon as it can be funded.

The logjam is in Washington. It’s essential that the federal government fulfill its obligations to Folly Beach, and, as the district’s representative, Mr. Sanford should do what he can to make it happen.