Approximately 2.7 miles of shoreline and 110,000 dump trucks of sand is how much of Pawleys Island’s beach needs to be nourished.
Pawleys Island, one of the oldest summer resorts on the East Coast, was in good shape until it was hit by Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew. While both storms did damage, Hurricane Matthew resulted in more dramatic beach and dune erosion with some areas of the beach showing more than 80 feet of recession, a complete loss of dunes and 80,000 cubic yards of sand lost. All this loss would require a nourishment to bring their beach back to normal conditions.
“The Town of Pawleys Island submitted their application for 1.1 million cubic yards of nourishment in early February,” said Tommy Fennel, Regulatory Chief, Northeast Branch. “However, immediately after Hurricane Matthew, we authorized emergency work under a Regional General Permit to allow them to temporarily stabilize the beach and dune system.”
The emergency work consisted of scraping sand from the beach to build up the dunes to prevent more erosion, protect existing infrastructure and restore habitat that is critical for endangered and threatened species.
While the Regulatory Division has been the most recent Corps branch to help, the Civil Works Division has a long history of assisting Pawleys Island in its battle against erosion. The Civil Works Division prepared Pawleys Island’s first beach erosion study in 1949 in response to damaging northeasters and has since done several studies for them.
One such study the Corps recently conducted found two potential borrow areas with beach-compatible material, which Pawleys Island has indicated in the permit application it will use for nourishment. Borrow Area A is a 319-acre area with 1.1 million cubic yards of sand approximately one-mile offshore of the southern end of Pawleys Island. Borrow Area B would be the primary borrow area as it is an 832-acre area containing an estimated 2.5 million cubic yards of sand three-miles offshore.
The Town of Pawleys Island has nourished the beach two other times, in 1990 and 1999, and since then the beach has been relatively stable with erosion rates at less than two feet per year.
"Prior to the two hurricanes, the overall beach condition in July 2016 was healthier than it was in 1997, largely due to the success of the 1999 nourishment project,” said Fennel. “We like to see long-term success rates like that, but if there is erosion due to a storm, the District is equipped to assist with emergency authorizations while simultaneously working with the applicant to reach a long term solution.”
Public notice on the permit application ended March 14th and project managers are reviewing comments and coordinating with state and federal agencies to ensure the work authorized will be effective while avoiding adverse impacts to threatened and endangered species. Currently, it is anticipated that the permit will be issued later this year.